A New Blog Design for a New Year

As 2012 comes to an end it is timely to reflect on what a fabulous year it has been.

I’m also launching a new theme to mark the start of a new year. Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom is now called Primary Tech. The URL has not changed.

Some of my 2012 highlights include:

  • Blogging – educational blogging has continued to be a large part of my classroom in 2012. It has been encouraging to see my grade four students improve in so many ways through blogging and global collaboration. 99 posts were published on the 4KM and 4KJ blog during 2012. Over 4000 comments were received and we recorded 33,000 visits on our Clustrmap during the year. A blogging highlight was coming third for the Best Class Blog category in the worldwide Edublog Awards in December.
  • Having a wonderful PLN – my professional learning network is wide and diverse. Each person in my PLN helps me to become a better teacher. Every day I am reflecting, brainstorming, questioning and chatting with a really inspirational bunch of educators via Twitter, email, Skype or blogs. I couldn’t teach without you!

In 2013 I am looking forward to:

  • Going 1:1 – we are introducing a Grade Four Netbook Program into our school in 2013. Eventually, this will be a program for grades four to six. I’m excited by the possibilities of going 1:1 and look forward to again working with a dynamic team of teachers. If you have any suggestions to make about 1:1 curriculum, I would appreciate you commenting on this post.
  • Technify Your Teaching in 2013 PD – I have been writing Tech Tools for Teachers for three years. Each fortnight Simon Collier, Matt Limb and I produce a how-to guide for an online tool. For the third time, we are running a full day of hands-on professional learning at my school in Geelong. There are just a small number of spots still available. If you are interested in attending you can find out more here.
  • Exploring new technologies and pedagogies – with the introduction of the 1:1 program, I’m looking forward to using the technologies that are already common place in my classroom even more, while exploring new technologies with my students. I’m always getting new ideas from my PLN and love trying new things!

My blog and I are taking a break and I look forward to posting again after the new school year begins in late January.

Thank you for all your support this year!

What were your highlights of 2012?

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

School is out for 2011

2011 has been a fabulous year! In true “Kathleen Morris style”, I have taken on a lot and juggled many different pursuits, but it is all worthwhile to reflect on what has been achieved.

Some of my 2011 highlights include:

  • Blogging – it goes without saying that blogging was a big highlight of my year. We published 112 posts and 4660+ comments on our class blog, and received nearly 25,000 visitors. Out of my 22 students in 2KM, nine students earnt their own blog which is quite an achievement for seven and eight year olds. They all say they will continue next year. I hope so!
  • Writing for BayFM – As author, Mem Fox, says, “we’re currently wasting a lot of time by giving unreal writing tasks in our classrooms….You and I don’t engage in meaningless writing exercises in real life—we’re far too busy doing the real thing”. Writing for a real media outlet was an incomparable experience for my grade twos! Read more about it here.
  • Edublog Awards – even though my class received some good results in the 2011 Edublog Awards, this is irrelevant. Seeing the students excited about nominating and reflecting on their choices was fabulous. They felt like they were a real part of the blogging community by participating in these awards. At the award ceremony, class morale was high as we cheered for people we did and didn’t know.  That is what blogging is all about – reflection, collaboration, creating and celebration!
  • Sharing and Encouraging Other Teachers – I have enjoyed presenting at various events this year, both online and face-to-face. It’s terrific to see teachers become excited about new possibilities! Teaching a unit to post-grad education students at Deakin University was also a source of rich professional growth and enlightenment for me.
  • Having a wonderful PLN – my professional learning network is wide and diverse. Each person in my PLN helps me to become a better teacher. Every day I am reflecting, brainstorming, questioning and chatting with a really inspirational bunch of educators via Twitter, email, Skype or blogs. I couldn’t teach without you!

In 2012 I am looking forward to:

  • Teaching Grade Four – I am teaming up with my teaching partner, Kelly Jordan, again and we hope to convert our two classrooms into one. I’m excited by the possibilities of working with older students!
  • ISTE – last week, L.A. teacher, Linda Yollis and I were accepted to present together on how our classes collaborate through blogging. ISTE is being held in San Diego in June. My class has been collaborating with Linda’s class for three years. We have become good friends and we have never met in person!
  • Technify Your Teaching in 2012 PD – I have been writing Tech Tools for Teachers for two years. Each fortnight Simon Collier, Matt Limb and I produce a how-to guide for an online tool. We decided to run a full day of hands-on professional learning to kickstart 2012. The response was overwhelming and we filled up all available spots in less than two weeks. I’m looking forward to the day and hope it will be the first of many Technify Your Teaching PDs.
  • Exploring New Technologies – blogging, global projects, iDevices, Skype and web 2.0 tools will continue to be a big part of my classroom. Next year I’m interested in trying Edmodo and I want to delve more into movie making. I’d love to get my students using Skype in ways other than whole class sessions. I’m always getting new ideas from my PLN and love trying new things!

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What were your highlights of 2011?

What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Looking Back 2004-2011

I finished university at the end of 2003 and started teaching in January 2004.

Like all graduate teachers, the beginning of my teaching career was a steep learning curve. Fortunately, I felt like I had a lot of role models around me on staff. As I embarked on my career, I remember thinking a lot about what makes a good teacher and what sort of teacher I’d like to be.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much has changed in the past eight years. I know I’ve changed enormously since 2004 but have all teachers? Are those teachers who were role models for me in 2004 still roles models?

Sadly, in the majority of cases, the answer is no. The simple fact is, some teachers are teaching the same as they were in 2004 when the world was a different place.

There is no denying that technology has changed the way we live. So many of the tools I use now in my classroom, professional learning or administration have only come about in the last eight years.

Here are some examples:

  • Interactive whiteboards – I didn’t even see one until about 2007. Now most classrooms in our school are equipped with interactive whiteboards and I use mine for every lesson.
  • iPod Touch – Launched in 2007, I started using iPod Touches in 2008 and they’re regularly integrated into my curriculum.
  • iPad – Launched in 2010, I started using mine in the classroom this year.
  • Edublogs – Launched in 2005, I started blogging in 2008. Edublogs has now reached one million blogs.
  • YouTube – Launched 2005.
  • Twitter – Launched 2006.
  • Flickr – Launched 2004.
  • Facebook – Launched 2004.
  • Diigo – Launched 2006
  • Skype – Launched 2003.

The world had changed so much since I began. Who knows what the next eight years will bring. All I can say is I plan to ride the wave, embrace change, reflect and reinvent!

Image: 'The tube' http://www.flickr.com/photos/16932921@N08/2161046983

Image: 'The tube' http://www.flickr.com/photos/16932921@N08/2161046983

How has your teaching changed since you started in the profession?

How do you Reflect?

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Chris Betcher on the Virtual Staffroom podcast interviewing Helen Otway. Helen is an inspiring leader at a Victorian P-12 school. Many of the topics Chris and Helen talked about struck chords with me including the idea of developing a more thoughtful approach to teaching and learning through reflective practice.

There has been a plethora of research on reflective practice over the years. Most people would agree, in order to continually learn and improve, individuals need to engage in regular reflection.

The world has certainly changed since the term ‘reflective practice’ was first coined. This got me thinking, how do teachers and students engage in reflection in 2011?

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Image: 'Savage walk: don't ask, just go' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/275371357

Currently, my primary avenues for reflection include:

1. Blogging: This blog is an excellent metacognitive process and avenue for reflection for me. Through the process of creating blog posts, I often “think about what I think” and put those thoughts into words. Through delving into my thoughts on topics and writing about what has been happening in my classroom, I often come up with new ideas and strategies to utilise in my teaching.

Another huge benefit of blogging is the comments. When other educators offer thoughts and opinions on my blog posts, I am introduced to new perspectives that help me reflect further. I think my students are better off for having a teacher that blogs and I couldn’t recommend blogging enough as a reflective exercise!

2. Team teaching: 2011 is the second year that I have been team teaching with Kelly Jordan. Prior to this, my reflections on lessons, student progress and teaching strategies used to happen in an ad hoc manner in the staffroom/team meetings with teachers who were disconnected from my classroom.

Team teaching allows for such rich reflection almost every hour of the day (and night!). When we’re not teaching, Kelly and I find ourselves talking non-stop about what our students need to work on, what ideas we could use and how our teaching is going. Our ideas just seem to bounce off each other proving that “two heads are better than one”! Team teaching has been one of the most rewarding and powerful situations I’ve experienced as a professional and I know my students are benefiting from it.

The key to this scenario is that Kelly and I are extremely like minded with our philosophies, drive, work habits, priorities, discipline strategies etc. Our partnership is harmonious and productive. While I love team teaching, I could think of nothing worse than being told who I should team teach with!

3. Time out: I find I have the best ideas and reflective “aha moments” when I take time out from what I am doing.

I have come up with some of my most memorable ideas and breakthroughs when I am running, bushwalking, cooking or even just having a shower! Strangely enough, I have even come up with thoughtful perspectives while sleeping! Time to think is so important for me.

4. Being part of a PLN: I would certainly not be the teacher I am without my professional learning network (PLN). Effective teaching and learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. A day doesn’t go by where I am not using Twitter, blogs, podcast, webinars etc to connect with other educators, learn, reflect and improve. When I am pondering an idea, I can use Twitter to get ideas and opinions from people all around the world.

I can hardly believe that the majority of teachers are still relying on the insights of their immediate team or school when there are billions of people out there who can broaden your horizons!

Half of my main sources for reflection wouldn’t be possible without technology!

Students need to be encouraged to reflect as well and introduced to mediums such as blogging, collaborative work, social media or time out as they progress throughout their schooling.

In this video, Dylan Wiliam talks about the importance of students being able to reflect on their learning and how teachers can utilise these insights.

In a similar way, this Stephen Heppell interview discusses how metacognition can help a young person to become a co-producer and explorer of their learning, rather than a consumer.

What avenues do you use to reflect?

How do you encourage your students to engage in reflection and metacognition?

My Blogging Journey

Many people have asked me how I got started with blogging. With my recent Edublog Award nominations, it has been an opportune time to reflect.

In 2008, as part of my Teacher Professional Leave project I visited the DEECD Central Office to get some ideas on how technology was being used in schools.

There I met Kerry who introduced me to blogging. She helped me sign up for my first blog, Leopold TPL, and as soon as I got home I started playing….and didn’t stop!

Not long after, I started a class blog and introduced my Grade Three students to blogging. Here is my first attempt at a class blog.

At the start of 2009, I moved to teaching Grade Two and started the 2KM blog.

I also started this blog, Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom, with the initial goal of sharing ideas and resources. The purpose of this blog is slowly changing from resource sharing to reflection, advice and discussion of issues surrounding technology integration.

Starting this blog involved taking a leap of faith. When I began, I had a handful of readers which has grown exponentially. Many people have mentioned to me that they would like to start a blog but they don’t think anyone would read it. I advise them to take that risk.

I love this quote I read on Twitter today.

The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. -Erica Jong

For me, blogging has been an ongoing journey. When preparing for my Tech Talk Tuesdays Elluminate Session last month, I was able to reflect further on this journey.

The following demonstrates how far I’ve come with my class blog in the last three years.

blogging journey

It’s important to realise that, like everything, you can’t know everything straight away.

If you’re just starting on your blogging journey, don’t be overwhelmed by what others are doing and all the possibilities that are out there. Start small and take it one step at a time. Persevere!

Even though I have come so far in the last three years, I am still learning every day. And I love it!

Leave a comment.

Share your thoughts on your own blogging journey.

What advice would you give to bloggers who are just starting?