Virtual Book Club

I was out to dinner this evening with a friend when she asked how often I wrote in my blog.  She knows how often I talk about blog posts I have ‘half written’ and I think she expected me to say more often.

When I took on my new position in September one of the things I promised myself was that I was going to have more time to write when I didn’t have to worry about planning, report writing, planning, marking, planning…..

But the funny thing is that when I finally had some spare time I filled it up very quickly! And not with blog post writing! I cringe that my last post was in January.  In fact it coincides with the week before I started uni.  I spent the first half of the year heading back to uni to complete my first unit in a Master of Educational Policy (International). When I look back to January I was very excited. The prospect of learning more, from people who are experts in the field, talking to fellow learners, wrapping myself in new knowledge.

But I must admit it wasn’t quite what I expected. I didn’t enjoy being talked at for hours on end.  And when the feedback I received felt generic and lacking I lost interest   In my first essay I spent hours each week reading, immersing myself in understanding the Finnish and English education systems.  I would go to bed reading about them, dream about them and use my lunch break to research more about them. But my feedback didn’t acknowledge any of that.  Now just to be clear I wasn’t concerned with my mark.  In fact it was exactly where I had self assessed myself.  That wasn’t a problem.  But the areas I had thought were my strengths had become my weaknesses.

It made it really tough to thrash out the next essay.  I found my self not caring, ploughing through and doing what I needed to. My motivation had completely gone. I completed it and handed it in.  But I didn’t love it as I had the first. The first I carried with me, nurtured it and held it close.  This one I did through guilt.

Now that has got me reflecting about my motivation.  Another goal I had when I changed jobs was to read more.  I have  a growing pile of books on my bedside table that I desperately want to read.  This year I have managed to read three books.  Not many but still more than the last couple of years.  I think this is more in relation to the amount of time I spend on public transport. I wondered how I could be more motivated to read.  Don’t get me wrong I love reading and I want to. But there is always something else that needs doing.  How can I prioritise reading?

Image: ‘Tome Reader

Tome Reader

Found on flickrcc.net

So that brings me to my idea of a virtual book club.  I don’t think I could commit to a book club in someone’s lounge room and God forbid my lounge room!  But a get together on Google Hangouts once a month I could do.  So would this motivate me to read more?  I think it would.  I make countless notes in the margins when I read but never have a chance to share them so what more motivation would I need than to know I could discuss my thoughts, share my curiosities and hear other ideas.

I have just purchased a copy of Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess after reading about it on Twitter and propose that be our first book.  If you are interested in joining my book club just leave a comment or chase me up on twitter.

Now back to finish off another half written blog post…..

My new blog

So I finally have my own website!

melcashen.com

I know – not very inventive but it is mine.

For the last few years I have used a free word press blog, and although they were simple enough to allow me to do my own, I am enjoying having the freedom to do what I like with it. Even if it did take me three days to choose a theme!

I will be leaving my old blog where it is for the time being, but if you have it in your RSS, on your blog or subscribe I would appreciate if you changed your link.

Thanks.

VITTA

Today I am lucky enough to be presenting at the VITTA conference in Melbourne. Not only is it a great opportunity to share my learning but learn from other and of course catching up with my ‘online friends.’

As part of one of my sessions I will be looking at the journey my blogging has taken over the last 15 months and some of the different tools I have used.

Here are some of the links I will be sharing today.

Global 2

My Class Blog

2KM and 2KJ

Linda Yollis

Proprofs – Games to embed

Poll Daddy – Add a poll to your posts

Answer Garden – Brainstorm

Page Plugins - Bling your posts

Animoto - Add slideshows

Smilebox – More slideshows

Box – Add documents

Slideshare - Add PowerPoint presentations

Vimeo - Great for video

Google Maps – Make your own map

Voki – Make talking avatars

Voice Thread – Send a message

Clustr Map - See who visits

Clarence Fisher - A blogging rubric

What tools can you recommend for use in blogs?

How have you used your blog for learning?

Please leave a comment.

Blogging – A Journey

This week’s challenge in the Global2 Challenge is to reflect on blogging in your classroom.  So tonight I took a reflective walk through my class blog and I soon realised the huge journey it has taken since the first post on  27th May 2010;

Welcome to Miss Cashen’s blog.  This site will allow you to have all of the wonderful things we do at school at your fingertips – literally!  All of the websites, activities and examples of our work will appear on here.  So whether you are at home on your netbook or at school in class, you can find all of those wonderful links to work we are doing.


I first began our blog after coming across Kathleen Morris’ class blog and felt that it would be a great tool to bring different links together in one place.   It was to be the perfect place to collate what we were working on in class.  So 15 months ago that is what I did and boy has it grown!

As I had planned I filled the side bars with links we were using in the class, sorting these into different groups and then using the posts to share the work we had been doing.  But the more I used the blog and saw what other’s were doing on theirs, the more I could see the amazing learning opportunities within blogging.

Soon we began to look at how to write a good comment and the power of leaving questions for readers in our posts.  And of course the joy of seeing blogging as a reciprocal community where leaving a comment on another blog can earn you a visit in return.

Then we delved into HTML, something I had no idea about before blogging.  But this opened the world for the plethora of Web 2.0 tools available to assist in learning.

As the excitement of our first global visitor to leave a comment enthused us, we began to focus on how to write a good post and to look at the blogs we were reading in an evaluative way, learning more about writing a quality post.

Our class blog has not only taught us to be better digital citizens but has given us an opportunity to respond to what we are reading and to write for an authentic audience.

If you were to look at our class blog now you may be thinking we hardly post on it but in fact this is because we have been busy setting up student blogs. Our journey is now about writing posts to interest our readers and build readership.  Now we can look even more closely at the community we participate in as bloggers.

I look forward to the next chapter of our blogging journey.

My Life as a Blogger – the challenge

I have only been blogging now for about 12 months.  Actually now I think about it I have been blogging for the last few years.  My first experience of blogging came when I moved to England to teach about 6 years ago.  As I was sitting in the library to check my emails I was peering over my shoulder at a fellow traveller uploading pictures and writing an online diary of their trip.  Now this was in the pre facebook days and was exactly what I needed to share my pictures and what I had been up to with my family back home.  Over the 4 years I was away it proved as a great tool to share with family and friends and I still love looking back and reflecting using Mel’s European Adventure Blog.

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For some reason, until now, I have never linked this blogging with the blogging I do now.

Last year I was searching Google for some reason and happened upon Kathleen McGeady’s class blog.  I instantly fell in love with what she was able to achieve in her blog and was very quick to get on board with my own class blog.  It was such an invaluable way to add links for my class to use, share what we had been doing in the classroom and give the kids real opportunities for writing.

It didn’t take long for us to see the wonderful benefits of our blog in the classroom.  With a few comments left on other blogs we soon grew a network of people who we now collaborate with around the world.

The next step in my blogging life was to find the plethera of teacher blogs out there.  Kathleen McGeady’s ‘Integrating Technology in the Primary lassroom,’ gave me a lot of help in using web 2.0 tools in my classroom and also reminded me about my twitter account!

Through Twitter I was able to find some wonderful blogs such as What Ed Said,  Edte.ch, and many others, which you will find filling my Google reader at the moment! I soon  realised the potential of using these for inspiration in my teaching and reflection.

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That was when I began my own blog! And why you now find me doing the Edublog Teacher Challenge!  So why am I doing the challenge?  As someone quite new to the idea of blogging, especially professional teacher blogs, I often have the feeling that I am not qualified enough or I struggle to think of interesting posts and  because of this I tend not to post as often as I would like.

Therefore the Teacher blogging challenge is perfect for me.  I look forward to publishing many posts over the next month.

Edublog Awards

As a new blogger this year, this is the first time I have participated in the awards.  It was definitely a difficult job and I have spent far too long (especially during the report writing period) deciding from my long list.

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Don’t forget you can nominate your own blogs here at Edublog Awards.

Best Individual Blog: Integrating Technology in the Classroom

Kathleen McGeady has many inspirational ideas and discussions on her blog.  I have it in my favourites bar as I am always going to it to find websites, web 2.0 tools or ideas to use in my classroom. It was her blog that started me blogging in the first place.

Best Teacher Blog: What Ed Said

Edna has some wonderful thoughts about education. She inspires me to think about and reflect on my own teaching.  She also has a wonderful humour.  Check out her post on ‘How to write reports….not’

Best Class BlogMiddle Learning Unit BPS

I love their Pic of the Day and Mystery Pic!  The children in this class take great pride in writing posts and I love to watch the variety of videos they have.  You should check out ‘How to make a Pumpkin Lantern’

Most Influential Blog Post: Teachers thinking about learning….

This post looks at how we can step back and allow students to be responsible for their own learning.  This is something I have been looking at closely in my classroom therefore this post was very informative and gave me some great ideas for reflection.

Best Education Webinar Series: Tech Talk Tuesday

I can’t say enough of this series.  If you have not had the opprtunity to join this elluminate session on a Tuesday, to listen to educators sharing terrific practises and ideas in the area of technology, you are certainly missing out!  I just wish it was Tech Talk Thursday so it wouldn’t clash with my staff meeting every fortnight! Luckily it is recorded.

Best Educational Podcast: Edtech Crew

These guys are with me in my car, when I go to bed and when I am doing the ironing! On my iPod that is!  Every fortnight, after listening to these guys, I jump straight on my computer to check out all the great things they talk about or to find our more about what their special guests have shared.

Best Individual Tweeter: Tom Barrett

Tom does a wonderful job using his PLN to share class and teacher blogs.  He uses Twitter to build collaborative tools we can all use in our classrooms such as the ‘Ways to’ series. From Tom, I have found many great class and student blogs all over the world.

Best new blog: Ms Woodward’s Class Blog

Ms Woodward’s class only started blogging in August for the first time and already they have built a fantastic blog full of great posts and interesting web 2.0 tools.

Best Student Blog: Aysha’s No 1 Blog

Aysha does a wonderful job sharing her learning and ideas in well written posts.  This is a great example to any student blogger.

Lifetime Achievement: Linda Yollis

I know Linda has not been blogging all of her life but what she has done for class blogging could fill a life time.  She has set the bar for writing comments and her ideas are used all around the world.  She is always searching for new blogs and loves to share comments with all that she visits, collaborating with classes everywhere. I have learnt so much from her blogging and can’t think of anyone else who deserves this award more!

Click

We have been using a class blog most of this year and I love it as a tool in my classroom.  Recently I found many people have adopted the Project 365 blog idea, where you take a photo for every day of the year and reflect on it.  It started me thinking how I could use this in the classroom.

So I created a new blog, Click: A photo for every school day.

Each morning a sign on the door lets the children know who the ‘clicker’ of the day is.  It is their responsibility to find something to take a photo of and upload it to the blog.  They then need to write a reflection on why they chose to take that photo.

Play Tiff2

In just a week it has been a huge success.  It is interesting to see what the kids have decided to take a photo of and it has them thinking about what they see everyday in a new light.

Each day the “new clicker’ is helped by the previous ‘clicker’.  They help each other to use the digital camera to take macro photos or look  for an interesting angle.  They then have someone on hand to edit their writing and help them upload the photo and add tags.

In the first couple of days the kids had really noticed the changes around the school ground with Spring making its way.  It was also great to see Gryphon take a photo of the Interactive Whiteboard as he saw this as being the centre of the classroom.

Pretty Flowers

I have also been really surprised at the standard of the writing.  The 4/5/6 kids have a good understanding of the global audience they are writing for and have enjoyed the chance to reflect.

What types of blogs do you use in your classroom?

Do your kids use digital cameras?

Leave a comment to share your ideas.