Monday, July 28, 2008

Reflections on Blogging

Last night I participated in my regular Sunday night discussion , Oz/Nz teachers with around 35 teachers mostly from Australia and with a smattering of educators from around the world. I was a little late to the discussion last night and when I entered the meeting the discussion was centred around the role of the teacher, eLearning and the changes that are occurring due to the way we see the integration of technology. The discussion had arisen I think from a post that Lauren o'Grady had written where in part she questioned the role of the teacher in the classroom. In her post Lauren suggested that the term eLearning is or should become redundant.
What I took away from the conversation was that the fundamental thing we are on about is creating opportunities for powerful learning in the classroom and that the relationship between teacher and her students should be one of mutual respect.

I posted a comment to her blog .

I think that the most important thing/issue/idea that you raise in this post Lauren is that you begin with the most important outcome in mind and that is powerful learning. If we begin with the end in mind then the use or the embedding of technology into the learning falls into place. If we recognise how students learn best, if we ask them what and how they want to learn, if we encourage them to demonstrate their learning in different ways then the “problem” of using technology should go away. The change that is required is not so much using technology but it’s in the way we teach. It requires a real shift, a letting go of the power in the classroom and a change in the expectations of what students can and should achieve. This is not about making things easier for our kids. I believe it’s actually about raising the bar even higher. Perhaps the question is not whether we are raising the bar for our students but whether we are raising the bar for our teachers.

But what I really want to talk about is what I am listening at the moment which reinforces everything that we discussed last night. I am listening to a wonderful conversation between Sue and her students. Sue is an English teacher in Melbourne Australia. I haven't actually met Sue in real life and know her as sukojat which is her online moniker. Sukojat is very well known in the online education world and is doing some amazing things online. She has established the Oz/Nz meeting that I love to attend each Sunday night. From humble beginnings another meeting is now taking place via Elluminate on Tuesday nights so it's growing in leaps and bounds. Sue has also established a ning for the OZ/NZ educators group and a focal point for discussions and links to our regular group meetings.

But again I digress because this is what I really want to say.

Tonight Sue tweeted that she was posting her first podcast ever on her blog. It was a conversation with her students about their experiences with blogging in their English class.
Of course I couldn't help myself. I had to have a listen and I'm so glad I did.

What I heard between Sue and her students were echoes from last night's conversation with the Oz/Nz teachers group.

What I heard in Sue's podcast, was a real conversation between a teacher and her students where there was equal value given to both the teacher and her students opinions and experiences.
I heard students being able to say what they thought without fear or favour.
I heard a teacher sharing her thoughts about her own practice with her students.
I heard students reflecting on their own work and their feelings about that work
I heard a teacher asking for valid suggestions and opinions about where they should go next.
I heard students asking questions and reflecting about the process of blogging and why they would do it
I heard a teacher and students laughing, sounding relaxed and enjoying themselves
I heard a teacher skillfully probing and encouraging more thinking and reflection
I heard a teacher who clearly knew her students well and who knew a little about them beyond the classroom.

What I didn't hear was a teacher telling students what they have to think and do
What I didn't hear was students saying what they thought the teacher wanted them to say.
What I didn't hear was students who sounded bored and uninterested.

From this short podcast I could tell that Sue is clearly a highly skilled teacher who has created a professional and personal relationship with her students. I could tell from their conversation that there is some very powerful learning here.
Congratulations Sue. I would love to be in your classroom.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Do kids prefer to read online?

As I prepare to begin our new computer club with SuperClubs Plus tomorrow lunchtime, I came across a post by Will Richardson on his weblogged blog who pondered whether kids who read online are actually reading.  Arising from an article in the New York Times called  Literacy Debate: R U really Reading  it raises the question whether young people are reading effectively when interacting with text online. Will asks whether we should be teaching how to read online. My  feeling is a whole hearted Yes! It's about opening up the key to a different way of reading, a different way of comprehending, a different way of interacting with text and other digital media.
If nothing else it has made me think about what and how I read on the internet. Is it different to the way I read narrative or factual text for example? I think it is and it's started some thinking that I want to explore more.

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