E-Portfolios & Web Tools

Why use blogs as e-portfolios?

My colleague Colin McKenzie and I are running a short PD session on why blogs are great, especially as e-portfolios. I created the short video below to go through some reasons so we could focus on the technical aspects on the day. This video was a great chance to try out some programs I’ve been wanting to try: Camtasia and Mozilla Popcorn.

Camtasia is simply a program that allows you to record what you’re doing on the screen while talking about it. It has a whole lot of editing functions, and I found its functionality similar to imovie. Apart from hating the sound of my own voice (Don’t we all! It never sounds they way we think it will!), it was easy to use and great.

After exporting the recording out of Camtasia I uploaded it to YouTube. Unfortunately you have to put the video on YouTube to be able to use it in Mozilla Popcorn. While I hated the idea of unfinished videos sitting in my YouTube account, I just made the video private. In Popcorn I added all the little pop ups, so there are active links viewers can click on while watching my video. I like that it put the video on pause and the links in a new window. This was also easy to use.

Guest Speakers

Last week I had three guest speakers come and speak to my Year 10 English class about literacy in their workplace, to give the students a ‘reality check’ on how important what they learn is. The first was a PE Teacher because five students are interested in that as a career, and he did a fantastic job dispelling the myth PE Teachers just play games all day. When he mentioned a 12,000 word uni essay there was an audible gasp. The second was a principal planner from a council, and the highly specialised language he used so easily certainly highlighted that the literacy students gain in secondary school was just the beginning. The last was a retired lawyer. He told a lot of great horror stories where the finer points of literacy matter, such as a comma that cost a company $23 million! It was a fantastic series of speakers, and I recommend doing it. The most common points running through all three talks were:

  • Everything in writing can come back to haunt you, so write as though your enemy will read it to use it against you.
  • You become a better writer by writing, and the earlier you start concentrating on it the better.

Professional Learning Network

I read a short article from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning that spoke to what I’m trying to achieve at the moment, and I’ll just quote a bit here:
“As social media become more and more predominant as platforms of connection and collaboration, the need for creating and maintaining a PLN ( Personal/Professional Learning Network ) becomes more pressing. As teachers and educators we are expected to be on top of the latest trends that can inform and enhance our classroom teaching as well as our professional growth.We are also expected to know the web tools that our students use and the new ones we can use with them in the future;  but this is not always possible … It is at times  like these that you can call upon your PLN.”

That is exactly what I’m hoping to achieve by having this blog, following others, and having a Twitter account. We cannot keep up on our own, we need to be connected. I also hope that some of what I put on my blog helps others with their own teaching and learning. There’s certainly a lot of amazing educators out there, such as Judy O’Connell whose recent post about student tools is a great resource.

So that’s my resource, story, and idea for this week! I hope you’re all enjoying the world of blogging as much as I am.



Bits & Pieces

Being new to regularly blogging and to having an e-portfolio, I found I have had trouble deciding what to write about. I like the focused topic approach, such as Colin McKenzie’s reflection on the paralysis of choice that affects teachers’ adoption of new technologies, but sometimes I don’t have enough to say about a topic. I remember the first time I presented at a SAETA conference. After agreeing to present a workshop I was so scared I would be ‘lecturing’ to professional colleagues and teaching them what they already know that I made my title sounds as boring as I could to reduce the number of attendees at my workshop. I called it: “Bits and pieces – some things that have worked.” I thought that sounded terrible against the highly academic titles of the other workshops and I would be ‘safe’. I had the most people in my workshop of any in the conference! I learnt that day that that’s teachers want other teachers to openly share their work, and that we are all bower birds – picture for effect. : )

All teachers are bower birds!

So, back to my approach to blogging. I think I will take the bits and pieces approach. Explore an idea, share a resource, tell a story, etc. The validity of the approach was reinforced when I watched Derek Sivers’ video below: Obvious to you. Amazing to others. This will be my resource to share for this blog.

For my idea, I am a brand new tweeter. (So brand new I’m not 100% sure that’s the right term.) I always swore I would never be on twitter, and my attitude was outlined perfectly in an article in The Age titled Teachers unlock tweet smell of success(gotta love news headline puns), “A common misconception is that Twitter aggregates only banal snippets – what my pet dog just ate.” I have discovered, thanks to George Couros, it is a fantastic professional networking tool. As stated by Corrie Barclay (@corrieb), e-learning co-ordinator at Manor Lakes College in Wyndham Vale, in The Age article, “One of the best professional development things teachers can do is to get on to Twitter, share ideas and follow certain people. Following people who are leaders in their field and having access to their resources and thoughts.” Simon McKenzie also refers to the difference being in the twitterverse can make for educators in his blog.

My story is an amazing lesson on the impact of grammar. I love to teach misperceptions, mistakes, etc due to punctuation, grammar and spelling. There are the classics:

  • Eats, shoots, and leaves. (Gun version. Yes, I’m a comma traditionalist.) Eats shoots and leaves. (Panda version)
  • Woman, without her man, is nothing. (Pro male version.) Woman. Without her, man is nothing. (Pro female version.)
  • Let’s eat, grandma. (Dinner version.) Let’s eat grandma. (Cannabilism version.)
  • A personal favourite: Grammar – the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.

My grammar story today comes from one of my voyeuristically favourite shows Air Crash Investigations (as it’s known in Australia – known as Mayday in other countries), season 11 episode 8 Blind Spot. While there was a series of mistakes that led to the crash of PSA Flight 182, as explained on the show the final chance to avoid the crash came down to grammar. The captain said to Lindbergh Tower, ” I think he’s passed off to our right.” which comes across clearly in the black box recording. What you can hear in the Tower recording due to static is, “I think he’s passing off to our right.” Because the air traffic controller heard present tense, he thought the pilot still had the Cessna in his sights and didn’t say anything. 144 dead because the Captain didn’t make it explicitly clear to the tower they’d lost sight of the Cessna. That’s now my favourite story to make students take lessons on the finder points of literacy seriously.
I hope I have encouraged you to share your work because it is amazing to others, take a second look at twitter if you haven’t previously, and that I haven’t put you off flying!

Are Web 2.0 Tools Worth The Time

Between doing a Masters degree, facing the prospect of teaching full time again next year with two Year 12 English classes (I’ve been 0.8 recently), and the general crazy busyness of life, I have been wondering how I will cope in 2013 (Term 4 will be ok – LSL here I come!). Watching the video below didn’t help. A modern reimagining of Nora from A Doll’s House, it perfectly captured how I’ve felt many mornings and afternoons this year (though I should add my husband is much more involved!) and I was left feeling overwhelmed. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, most women lead quiet lives of desperation.

Embed code wouldn’t work. Found it on YouTube but embed code was disabled. Here is the link to the video.

So, feeling like that, I wondered how I could possibly devote time to my new tools, blogs and twitter, and my old tools, facebook and wikispaces? My answer to myself was, ‘Because they are absolutely spend time to save time tools!’ In the past week:

  • I began my preparation for the Year 12 English Communications course. Instead of spending time finding files, printing them, photocopying them, and dealing with inevitable photocopier issues, I simply went to my 12 English Wiki, did some clean up, tweaked / changed / added / deleted files as necessary because I spend the time setting up a wiki this year.
  • One of the files I added to the Wiki was a Google Form (the getting to know you link on this page), which I thought of because of the PD I went to with George Couros. So instead of printing, photocopying, getting kids to fill it out, collecting, and manually collating, I will direct them to the link, they will fill it out, and it’s will be automatically collated for me.
  • The reason I even knew about the PD was because my coordinator and I are members of the South Australian English Teachers Association facebook group.
  • I want to show my Stage 1 Media students the Stage 2 products so they have a clear idea about the expectations for next year, so I simply when to Colin McKenzie’s blog that I follow, picked the wiki and the page I needed, and have all the products at my fingertips at the bottom of his wiki page.

Now these are all tiny things and not particularly impressive, but they all add up to much more efficient management of time. When Colin and I run some PD on blogs with staff at our school I know their primary concern will be whether it’s worth their time. I hope to impress on them the fantastic collaboration that can be done via blogs that will inspire them, develop their professional learning, give them resources, and, ultimately, save them time.

Let me end this post by sharing two resources that were shared with me. The first I used with my Year 10s last week to help them examine the effect of author, context, purpose, target audience, form, and linguistic and structural techniques. The second connects with the Masters in Teacher Librarianship I’m studying. Both were shared with me by Jonathan Scobie. If you know him, you will not be surprised to find both have Buffy The Vampire Slayer connections! : )

Resource 1

Resource 2

Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Research as a Public Good

A Day With George Couros

A Professional Development Day: George Couros – 29th October, 2012 @ Flinders University.
George Couros is a Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, Alberta, Canada.

I just had a fantastic professional development day with George Couros at my old haunt, Flinders University. I always love PD because I get to talk with adults all day,  have civilised lunches in the sunshine, and get inspired to improve my teaching practice.

George Couros was amazing. Not just because he’s tall, dark, and handsome, but because he practices what he preaches and shares his knowledge and resources unconditionally. Eg almost everything he showed us can be accessed through: bit.ly/flindersedu

Keynote: Creating Learning Opportunities through connected, transparent school environments

“The illiterate of the 21st century will … be … those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alwin Toffler

The question George posed, “What would our school look like if we could start from scratch?” intrigued me, and he linked to an answer he had later to someone’s question about school resistant to change where he answered that staff need to be directed to focus primarily on what is best for students. If we could put all the politics, budgeting, established traditions aside and focused solely on what is best for students what would be the same? What would change? How could we achieve that change?

George mentioned something I am guilty of: “[Teachers] filter then publish, kids publish then filter. We tend to not want to share until things are perfect. We need to change this mindset.” I know that one of the reasons I have not previously had a blog is because I ‘don’t have time’, and I’ve thought that way because I would spend forever proofreading, formatting, and worrying about whether I sound ‘academic’ enough. How many times have I told students to stop worrying and just write?! Time to take my own advice.

George also advised that with new classes a primary focus at first should be to find out what skills the students already have. I’ve had some amazing Media Studies students this year who are YouTube partners and seems to spend every second of their spare time learning animation skills, which further drives home that to educate effectively I need to find out those strengths that students often hide behind shyness and fear of sounding ‘up themselves’. George also included teachers in this, that it’s just as important I discover my own strengths and use them to take risks in learning.

George addressed the resistance of opening up students to twitter, YouTube, etc. Against this resistance he made two particularly powerful points: A) “You can’t just put your kids online end expect amazing things to happen, they have to do great work. But amazing things can’t happen if they’re not in that space.” B) If we don’t educate kids on Web 2.0 tools and teach them to navigate them we are doing them a disservice. We cannot take the ‘we’ve blocked them therefore it’s not our responsibility’ attitude.

Workshop 1: Becoming a Learning Leader (in any role)

“The smartest person in the room is the room.”

George advised that, rather than focusing on barriers to implementation of new ideas and practices, as a leader decide what is worth doing and then work out how to make it happen. He assured us that the time investment is in the beginning. For example establishing a substantial twitter following to then be able to say, “Hey does anyone have x?”

After School Workshop: Blogs as an e-Portfolio

You’re looking at the result of this workshop now. It’s aligned with the AISTL Teacher Standards, an e-Portfolio of my learning and achievements, the beginning of a professional network, improves my digital footprint, a resource bank, a place to consolidate my thoughts, and so much more.

A inspiring day that I hope makes a huge difference to my practice and my students.

Attended with Col.

Couros, G. (2012, October). A Professional Development Day: George Couros. Flinders University.