lforner


Humans of…Part One.

This year, in an effort to ensure that the learning of my students has more meaningful links to life beyond the classroom, I have decided to go for an online audience.

Over the holidays I became obsessed with the ingenius blog, Humans of New York; the way that it deals with perspective and characterisation, from the viewpoint of an English teacher, is so original and engaging. It is also great to show the diversity amongst a community, which we lack here in my small, rural town.

I decided I was going to capitalise on the success and concept of the blog and apply it to our Year 7 unit, Real and Imagined Worlds. I also realised this was a great opportunity to incorporate PBL elements to the task, letting the students determine the audience, content of the site and organise the blog. They were extremely excited about having ownership of such a text.

This week, students voted as a class and decided on writing their own descriptions of places which were significant to them to share on the site. After much discussion and debate, they entitled the blog ‘People Down Under’, as a nod to the Humans of New York brand. These descriptions had to incorporate poetic devices which we have been studying, most notably imagery. Students also chose a template for the site, having to justify in terms of visual literacy why their choice was the most suitable.

During the next week, students will get to work uploading the content to the site and choosing colours, fonts, pictures, etc. They also plan to contact the famous blogger himself, Brandon Stanton, to ask for advice on creating the blog and keeping it updated. Hopefully they continue to stay just as excited about the project over the next couple of weeks as we hold its “launch”!

 

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More than just a New Year’s resolution

This year will mark a four year anniversary that I’m not overly proud of. In 2012, I headed out to my first teaching position, optimistic and ready to spread the word about the power of technology and the importance of developing a wide PLN to support best practice. And a year in, I fell off the wagon completely. As I enter my fifth year in the classroom, I’ve realised that it isn’t just about my teaching, or the learning of the students in my class, or even in my school. It isn’t about my faculty, or even the staff at my school. I have cut myself off from so many valuable resources, so much valuable input and so much support, and it hasn’t been until I’ve come up for air, so to speak, that I’ve been able to realise that a great deal of the inspiration I took with me out to my first teaching post was the feeling of contributing meaningfully to a community.

This year, I’m not just making it my New Year’s resolution to reconnect with my PLN, be active on Twitter and blog regularly, I’m also including it as a goal in my PDP. I want to rekindle the fire I once felt when issues surrounding the education industry were discussed and reclaim my own thirst for knowledge. One of my passions, in particular, was the support of Pre-Service Teachers, and I think that with the additional experience I’ve now had, I can offer them far more practical guidance and help.


Reflections on social media in PD: PSTN and the power of a “star”

Some of you may be familiar with the PSTN project which was a project forged by Sarah, Narelle, David and myself in the latter half of last year. The general enthusiasm of those willing to take on teacher-mentor roles was overwhelming, and those established at universities rounded up cohorts of PSTs as mentees.

Unfortunately, as Sarah, David and Narelle have blogged about, enthusiasm amongst PST students soon dropped and we were left with minimal online participation and confusion as to why the concept which had worked so well for others in a real setting (namely myself) had failed to work for this cohort of PSTs.

Unfortunately, I had not banked on having every spare second occupied by marking and planning, and had envisioned myself in a much more active role during the program. Luckily, the rest of the team were willing to overlook this miscalculation on my behalf, and convinced me it was ok to concentrate on my school work rather than stress about the project.

More unfortunately still, however, was the fact that suddenly social media had dropped out of my every-day routine. At the time, what I missed most about this was the daily contact with and support of my valuable PLN. I missed them getting excited when I had success and their suggestions when I had a stumble. I missed being challenged and stimulated at any time I chose to flick through my twitter feed.

Now that I have had time to reflect upon it, however, I realise that what I missed most was the reflection and opportunities for self improvement which social media offered.

While I was discussing my daily “stars” with my PLN in term 1 I had a constantly uplifting and concrete reminder about the small educational wins and progress I was making. In term 2 though, I found I was increasingly negative about my ability as a teacher, even though I was achieving the same things I had been proud of in term 1, and more.

In term 3, I am going to aim to get back to having a “star” every day, and at least once a day contributing to some of the professional dialogue which twitter offers, whether it be to answer someone’s question, offer encouragement, or ask for suggestions myself.

So whilst PSTN didn’t work out as we had hoped, it’s “flop” (wanting to avoid using a bad word!) has indeed made me wiser about the important role social media played in my professional development and practice.


Call for Participants in Pre-Service Teacher Networking Project: Mentors

In-service teacher or educator of any flavour? We want you. #pstn is a project designed to introduce pre- and early-service teachers to online networking (more detailed info here). It uses a non-traditional mentor model – mentors are not allocated to participants on a 1-to-1 basis. Instead, we’re looking for a pool of mentors to interact, respond and guide on a completely ad-hoc basis, contributing what you can when you can. There’s no minimum or maximum time commitment and no requirement to be anyone’s ‘go-to’ person. It’s essentially just a committment to welcome a new group of people to your PLN and provide them with support.

To get involved, follow our How To Play getting started guide (it’s the same for both mentors and participants). Initially, joining the Hootcourse is all you’ll need to do to confirm your participation before the project kicks off in late February.


How my own impatience has made me realise the necessity of social media for students

Is it just me, or has Twitter made everyone impatient? If my twitter feed doesn’t update every 2 seconds I throw my phone to the other side of the room, and wonder why my wifi is playing up.

And if no one else has tweeted after me (ie I appear first on my news feed) it makes me wonder whether there has been some kind of nuclear crisis which has decimated the planet.

Sigh. I am even impatient with Facebook nowadays, and have stopped using it because people take up to a day to reply.

I used to laugh when I heard the phrase acquired ADHD bandied around, but now it seems to be my grim reality. I can only imagine what students, who have known no other world than that of instant access and instant information, must feel like when we teachers take so long to get on board with new things like social media.

The discussion surrounding whether social media is a positive or negative thing for children has become an obsolete one. The fact is, that the invention of avenues for instant communication, instant collaboration and instant access to people and information are reflective of the way in which the digital generation function.

The “digital” has not created the generation, the generation has created the need for avenues for digital networking.