Tag Archives: Blog Alliance

Let’s Form An Alliance

It’s hard to believe the chatter about #beyondlaptops continues. For those of you involved in the conversations, you know how intense and hopefully fruitful it has all been. I hope that, like me, you have been challenged and pushed and forced to think, defend and articulate your ideas. More importantly, however, I hope we can agree it is time to move on. Time to look at the now what. Or like Adrienne said,

Sitting and talking and planning and sharing is great, but what comes next?

I have been hoping to clarify some of my ideas all week, and so here I am to do it. Before I begin, I have three disclaimers:

  1. This post and the ideas it is proposing is not meant to be a debate about the merits of said idea. If you feel that what I am about to propose would not be useful for your school, then please simply ignore it. I see no need to re-hash this conversation. If however, you would like to get involved and help shape what it can become, then by all means please push, pull, criticize and help make it what we all want/need it to be.
  2.  I am moving to a new school and my role as educational technologist and decision maker will be greatly diminished. I am not even sure that I will be able to implement any of the ideas I am about to propose. I have yet to speak to my new team. (New team: if you are reading this, please don’t feel the need to comment now, just use this idea as a starting point for conversations next year.) I have a very faint idea of what is on the ground at my new school. I could show up and realize that nothing I am about to say is relevant or even possible. Having said that, I’ve never found relevancy or possibility important enough obstacles to  impede the dreaming and brainstorming stage.
  3.  Most of what I am proposing is for international schools in Asia, I hope that others will benefit from our conversations, but in order for it to work, we really need to have a small group of schools from similar backgrounds and working with the same sort of students. Perhaps this idea will be useful in a framework that mirrors your own and you can follow the process.

Okay, enough stalling. Let’s get to it.

I am proposing an Alliance–an agreement or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests. I am hoping we can create a confederation of international schools in Asia to share ideas, create shared resources and develop a broad understanding of what it means to use technology in existing 1:1 environments. These ideas, resources and understandings will be co-created and shared under an umbrella for all members to use, adapt or modify for their own individual schools.

Nuts and Bolts:

What can this look like? Where would it happen? Kim has suggest that we make the Beyond Laptops blog collaborative. I think this is a great idea and  fine starting point, but I was thinking a bit more in terms of wider use of tools under the “Brand” of whatever we call this thing.  (Thanks to Kim for offering the blog, but because of the sensitive nature of  previous conversations, I am not presuming to use the #beyondlaptops tag) I would love to keep going with #beyondlaptops or #waybeyondlaptops, which has risen to the top of the dialogue, but the name is unimportant right now, what is important that there is a name to our alliance and our work is tagged and curated accordingly.

Perhaps we have:

  • A shared Google collection where a variety of (group created) documents, that are in progress, can be shared and stored.
  • A Google site or Wiki to keep track of completed documents, presentations, and other useful resources
  • A blog, like Kim suggested, for reflection on the process and discussion

Let’s stop for an example:

Many of the people I regularly speak to are blogging at their schools. Some are using blogs as ePortflios, some are using them to help build community, others to create authentic audiences for their young writers. Different schools use blogs for different reasons, but there is a core understanding that blogs– should do something. We have a shared understanding of what a “good” blog should include. I am suggesting that rather than individually create these understandings, scope and sequences and rubrics of an effective blog, we create them under the banner of this alliance.

We have causally done this sort of collaboration, in the past, with disparate Google Docs, (remember the Blog Alliance) but why not have a K-12 blogging scope and sequence, complete with permission slips, rubrics, expectations etc… in a shared collection, on a wiki or a site for all of us to use. We create it together. Set up action plans and timelines. Delegate responsibilities and timelines and build it. These resources need not be one-size-fits-all. If an adjustment needs to be made for an individual school, then so be it.

The blog is just one example. I am sure we can brainstorm several other common goals and interests, that would be fertile ground for collaboration.  We share many common goals and interests, and by sharing what they are, we can help each other create something, someplace, useful. Some other ideas:

  • Digital Citizenship materials*
  • Professional Development materials
  • Community building and Cultural materials

* materials can include: documentation, posters, scope and sequence, standards, criteria, letters, rubrics, media, presentations etc…

As I mentioned earlier, I am not even sure if I can be involved with something like this at my new school. I need to get on the ground and get a lay for the land, but I have had too many casual conversations about something just like this at every conference I have ever attend. I think there are a core group of schools that could benefit from an alliance.

If you are interested, please leave a comment on this post or email me directly. I will compile a list of people who are interested and get back to you next year. Perhaps Learning 2.012 will be a good time and place to sit and layout a framework. We can consider Brady’s model or work out a different one. Maybe this is still too vague for you and you will wait till something more substantial is in place. Fair enough.  Just, think about it over the summer, and let’s regroup next fall. Maybe you simply feel this is not for you or your school. Fair enough. This is my pitch, if you are interested, please get in touch.


Marathon Man

As the year comes to close there will be the inevitable litany of blog posts recapping achievements, documenting successes and reflecting on next steps.  Kim Cofino started it with her latest post, and since I am flying to Lombok tomorrow and hoping to take a much-deserved break from Twitter and Edublogging, I want to gather my thoughts here, now, in this blog post.

Unfortunately my list of accomplishments may sound a bit more personal than Kim’s, because I am not really working within a Tech team, regardless I would like to thank my colleagues at school, and my wife/team member/tech protégé  Mairin Raisdana for being so open and hungry to learn about technology and move forward. So where to start?

It is a bit taboo and perhaps considered vain to talk about numbers, but since it is clear I have no issues with ego, awards, or numbers counting, I will start there. My numbers are up!

I am sure there are many that will say numbers don’t matter, but for someone who started a few years ago writing to an audience of one, it is encouraging and rewarding to watch the bars on the graph grow taller and taller. I am not arguing that higher numbers mean success or a better blog, or a better community, but I am saying that the more people stop by and read my blogs, the more chance there is to build authentic connections. Beyond the numbers, however, the thing I am most proud of and happy with are the consistent comments from my regular readers. People like Will Chamberlin, Adrienne Michetti, Clint Hamada, Cathy Crea, Melanie McBride, Tim Bray, and Keri Lee Beasley (There are so many more to mention!) have proven time and time again that having a small committed readership is more important than a huge one. So while increasing numbers are a good way to build a robust readership, a blog must have a foundation of people who look to it as a pleasure to read and with which to connect. I know that I have a support system in place that challenges my thinking, supports me and my students, and offers me material on which to reflect. So why mention numbers?

Over the last semester as my blogs have gained popularity, my voice and ideas are reaching more people. Through Twitter and my two blogs I have been able to connect with a variety of people worldwide. School kids in Canada, a variety of online interviews, and of course face-to-face connections. I have been accepted to present at the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong, and I am speaking with Melinda Alford about leading a cohort at the next Learning 2.0 conference in China. I have had constructive feedback on my teaching more here, and support for the blogging initiative I am trying to spearhead at our school.

Wow! That’s a lot of hyperlinks. Which means it has been a busy productive term. For people who are new to this online world of networks and connections, I hope my recount can shed some light on the power of blogging and connecting. It is not my intention to brag about my work, but to show what powerful professional development maintaining a blog can be. I was able to do all of this in addition to the in house “real” work I am doing on campus, building an ESL department from scratch, learning about the MYP, and helping the IT team move forward on schoolwide initiatives!

Furthermore, my students are making great progress within our classroom. I am experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what second language learners can do when given the tools to express themselves. In short, I am doing what I love and modeling behavior I would like to see in our school.

How does this happen? How did I go from blogging to myself to creating an authentic, caring, supportive, critical group of individuals who read my work, comment, share tweets, and invite me to conferences?

Consistent, open, honest sharing. This is the model that has worked for me. Everyone says they haven’t the time to blog or connect or do anything other than what the curriculum demands of them.  I simply find that to be a cop out. In addition to what I have described above, I am raising two kids, writing a book, and leading a pretty satisfying rich life. I am not trying to say that I am superman and you should be like me; I am simply pointing out that building these networks takes time and energy and it is hard work, but if you take baby steps and stay with it it will bare fruit. Managing time is a choice we all make. If you are serious about blogging, it must be built into your day. Even if it is a few hours a week, it must be consistent.

I often catch myself comparing writing/blogging with running. I don’t do the latter, but first saw the connection through the book What We Talk About When We Talk About Running. Writing is like a marathon, you take your time and pace yourself, but always have a goal in mind.

image by seeveeaar

My goal has never been to become an Edublog celebrity, or to leave my classroom and present at conferences worldwide. I have only ever wanted to share my ideas, my thoughts, and yes my feelings in the most honest way I can to connect with as many individuals across the world as I can. I see this connection as the first steps toward understanding, which eventually I believe leads to a more just and peaceful world. A marathon indeed.

So as 2010 comes to close, I want to thank everyone who has supported me this year with your comments, tweets, external validations and of course love. I feel proud of the work I am doing and I owe much of its success to you. Whoever you, where ever you are reading these words.

Now I am off to Lombok to enjoy some of this:

image by Fadil Basymeleh

I look forward to spending time with family, friends, and my thoughts. Looking forward to disconnecting for awhile, taking a break from Twitter and blogs and enjoying the ocean, my daughter’s laughter, and my camera. See you all in 2011!


Week 2- Blogging Club: Time

I am not gonna lie, I am feeling tired, a bit burnt out and lazy. It is Friday morning, I have a few preps to get some work done, but I am mostly caught up, so it is the perfect time to do a quick write up for the second meeting of our blogging club. The problem is I don’t really feel like doing it.

This is where modeling behavior you like to see comes in. One of the biggest questions I get from new teachers to blogging and interacting with the social web is, “Where do you find the time?” The answer is I don’t find the time. Time is not something that is found; it is made. It is shaped. Expanded and collapsed. It is used or misused. So while I could just relax and maybe surf the web, or perhaps work on my Areas of Interaction wall display, or finish up the work on my ESL oral assessments, I am choosing to take twenty minutes and quickly jot done a few ideas about our second session. Why? Because I believe in the value of routine and writing and reflection and blogging. Time is a choice, or better stated a series of choices.

While some may see the use of twenty minutes as a frivolous hobby, I see it as professional development. I see it as my chance to reflect on the work I do. This reflection and growth professionally and personally is one of the most important aspects of my life. I see it as time well spent, not wasted. We are all busy. Take a look at Dean Shareski’s thoughts on the subject of busyness, but we have a choice on how we use our time. So without further ado. A quick recap:

1. I came to the conclusion that perhaps many of the participants are not ready or willing, or need to commit to this level of involvement with their own reflection. They do not want to create a professional blog where they ponder the merits of online communication and community building. They simply want to learn how to use the tool to create a space that will help them connect with, and engage with their students and parent community. I also learned that this is okay. We cannot expect that everyone will find value in one model of blogging. The secret I think is to offer people exposure, show them the options and help guide them to where they want to go, not where we want to take them.

If our elementary school art teacher wants to create a platform to share student work with a wider audience, instead of writing about the process, that is totally okay. I need to find out where she is and help move her to where she wants to go. So many times technology enthusiasts want to show everyone everything at once, and are shocked that perhaps a teacher doesn’t want to follow.

2. I got a good sense of what everyone wants from their blogs and we began to discuss and explore design and platforms. Teachers are using Blogger and WordPress themes. I did some research to try and find the best tool for embedding slideshows on a Blogger account and feel I found some great choices to offer. The question for me, however, is how can I empower the teachers to find these options for themselves? How can we demonstrate to teachers that there is value in taking time to research solutions to the problems they face? How can we show them that struggling with technology is what learning looks like, and in the long run figuring out how to do something for yourself is not wasting time, but actually it is them learning?

I don’t want to take anymore of your time, but I am curious of what you think. If you are one of the teachers here at SWA, please leave a comment, and let’s see if we can carve out a conversation as we help build the tools you need. Take ten minutes and try to hash out your thoughts. They don’t have to be complete or perfect. This point cannot be better made than by reading over this post and highlighting the many typos and mistakes. A blog is a place to reflect and talk, not to write your opus.

I want to close by saying how great it is that you do make the time every week to join us and learn about something new. Thank you. Your time is valued and appreciated, because I know you could be doing a million other things.


Starting From The Learner

Helping teachers get into blogging has been an enlightening experience so far. Yes, I know we have only had one session so far, but I have spent the greater part of the last seven years trying to find ways to “shift” teacher attitudes about the use of technology.

This post will not be some long polemic about my thoughts, and that is okay as I am trying to make a point. Blogging, while called publishing, need not always be so polished and perfected. One may have a thought or an idea that needs a bit more flushing out, an idea that may need more space than Twitter can provide, and so one can simply crank it out, get it on he web, and see who responds.

Blogging can be a great tool to simply work through your thoughts. First by sitting down and articulating exactly what you are trying to say and secondly through the instant feedback from your readers. So here is what I have been thinking about since Wednesday:

I have been very careful to meet teachers at their starting points. I am very aware that I could, by moving too quickly, push teachers out of their comfort zones and lose their interest. I am noticing that adults treat their learning with care and caution. They question it. They are timid at times and move quiet slowly. As a teacher working with them, I am very aware of their trepidation and try to acquiesce to their fears. This is good practice. This is starting from the learner and moving forward.

My question is how often do we do this with our students? How often do we sit back and think about the comfort levels of the diverse students in our classes. Are we worried that if we move too fast we could lose them, or are we trying to get through curriculum? Are we worried that some students maybe fearful and nervous of what they are being asked to do, or do we simply assume that all are eager learners?

Differentiated instruction has become a buzz word, and like all jargon has lost much of its meaning, but I think it is important to show the same level of care and attention to students that we pay when working with teachers. Furthermore, why is it that some teachers are so cautious when it comes to learning new things? Is this hesitation a characteristic of life long learning? What do you think?

By the way this post took me nine minutes to write.


We Are Off!

We held our first Blogging Club for teachers at my school yesterday and I would say that it was a resounding success. Of course I would say that because I am facilitating the group, but seriously it was great to see so many enthusiastic, open-minded teachers eager to learn about something new.

If you are one of the teachers who was there yesterday, and you are reading this post, welcome! Reading blogs is one of the first steps to entering the conversation and moving forward on your journey. In the spirit of reflective learning, I want to use this post and the subsequent ones I write about this process to be a place where I reflect on the process of working with teachers who want to use more technology. I am a firm believer that we learn best, when we can articulate our style, our successes, and most importantly our failures. I also want to use this series of posts to document what we are doing as a means to share the journey with other teachers, at other schools who may be interested in a similar project.

What we did:

In an effort to use as many useful tools as we can, beyond just blogs, I created a Google Doc as a place to take collective notes on our meeting. I am finding that Google Docs are a great tool for constructing meaning by its users. I could have easily passed out or shared the answers to some of the questions we discussed on a hand out or powerpoint, but I feel it is important to have stakeholders gather their thoughts and ideas and collaborate to come up with a shared response.

I created an outline on the document and encouraged participants to take notes as we talked. This was a bit new and unusual for some, and it was natural to want to read what was happening on the document. I think after a while it will get easier.

Here is some of what was there:

Why did you sign up for this blogging project?What are you hoping to get out of it?

  • A renewed interest in blogging
  • Have difficulties sometimes trying to figure out what to write about.
  • never blogged before – want to learn/experiment!
  • To develop a class blog and perhaps a professional blog
  • To have a space for discussion points that are generated in class but because of time-constraints we cannot fully develop them.
  • Community
  • Communication
  • who is the audience?

Two words on this list make me very happy: Community and Communication. We are on the right track!

Here was the agenda:

  • Have a general conversation about why people blog.
  • Different types of blogs: class, personal, professional.
  • Different blogging platforms
  • Start a blog
  • Talk about design and features

It was great to see how these initial questions raised much bigger and more philosophical questions. I didn’t want to start with such a big scope, but it was encouraging to see the interest. Some of the major raised questions were about:

  • Time constraints
  • Safety
  • Online Identity
  • Publishing something while your learning (Things not being perfect)

There were other concerns, but these were the few that come to mind. I do not want to address these issues in this post, but rather hope that we can tackle each one in the coming weeks.

I think one mistake I made was that I only used my blogs and general way of doing things as examples, and people may have been a bit shocked by the amount of time I spend on my online presence. I want to ensure teachers who are in our group that I may be a bit of an anomaly. There is no expectation for teachers to have four blogs and spend a few hours a night posting to your blogs. Each individual will find a comfort zone and work from there. So please do not think that we are all trying to race to some kind of blogging ideal. We are here to start where you as an individual teacher feel comfortable and slowly move at your pace till you feel confident to move forward.

Interesting to see how much more cautious and nervous teachers can be about learning than their students. As teachers we tend to be more dubious and want to move very slowly and cautiously while we learn, but then we expect our students to be enthusiastic learners who are always working at the class pace rather than their own. Something to keep in mind: Each learner starts in a different place and needs their own pace. Do we do that in our classrooms, or are we trying to get through curriculum?

Next week we will look at a variety of other blogs to a sense of the diversity in style and content. Here is a list you may want to start exploring before next week:

always learning
Intrepid Teacher
Tip of the Iceberg
Learning on the Job
Mr. C’s Class Blog
Everyone has to start somewhere
Beyond Digital
The History Ninja
Teach With Video
Mrs. Utility Player

We went on to discuss the different types of blogs that teachers could have: Class, Personal, and Professional. Based on this Google Doc Survey I sent out prior to the meeting it looks like we will have a variety of different blog styles within our group, which is fantastic.

In closing we spent some time looking at various platforms, mainly: Blogger, WordPress, Weebly, and Edublogs. The expectation is that teachers will have a clear idea of what sort of blog they want to start and which platform will be best for them. Next week, we will create blogs and begin looking, I mean writing about, what we learn.

I am thinking about proposing that no matter what kind of blog teachers create, they also create a reflective blog for the purpose of this club. So they/you too can have a place to write about the various videos we will watch, the posts we will read, and the conversations we will have.

What do you think teachers? How is it going so far? Don’t be shy leave a comment and let the conversations begin. For those of you wondering about time, this post took me 17 minutes to write, 10 minutes to edit. Please do not judge lest there be typos or grammatical faux pas. (Spelling?)