Teaching in a small prep to year 12 school sometimes comes with its challenges. Subject choice can be restricted for students. Class sizes and budget often means that the only way subjects can run at senior levels is for the two year levels of VCE be combined in one subject area. As such I teach a total class size of 16 year 11 and 12 students in one class but following two different currciular. (or should that be curriculums).
The girls love to network
Students who would not normally be pursuing a full VCE, will often attempt subjects for which they may not be suited. This year, I have a number of challenging, disengaged students at both levels. They are easily distracted by other online activities and reluctant to do any theory work. The year 11 portion are participating in the Flat Connections Global Project Usually students enjoy joining the ning adding their profiles, customizing their pages etc
However for one of my students even this was too much. He wrote in his profile “I live in a house” and that was it — “I live in a house” I nearly saw red, then quietly explained how nearly everyone around the world lived in a house. Other global students were more interested in what the house was like, what it looked like where they live, what they do after school.
After much nagging, he finally wrote a little more that he lived on a farm and liked shooting! Next discussion with me – “There are students in the project from USA who may be upset that you are shooting! What do you shoot? Be specific!” By the end of the 50 minute lesson he had a brief profile that shared how he lived on a farm and liked to go shooting to get rabbits and foxes! I was on the verge of finding another subject for this student!
So, it was with some dread that I entered the classroom today, only to be greeted by “Guess what, Miss!” by this same student! He was woken up last night by his mobile phone alerting him to the fact that two students in the USA had commented on his handshake post! One of the students also liked shooting and his targets were turkeys, squirrels etc. He shared the names of guns he used and wanted to know what guns my student used….. and so a now highly engaged students commented back, looked for other handshakes to comment on and the wonderful world of global learning just opened right up!!!
The next minute, one of the boys discovered the chat, found one student in USA working at home, trying to work out how to upload a video on to his ning page. Aaron, then responded in the chat exactly how to do it. Peer to peer mentoring is the best way to learn!
A back channel is an online space where participants in formal or informal sessions have a virtual place to converse, ask questions, share, add to a discussion and simply ‘have a voice’. A question was asked of me on twitter:-
As such it can be very effective for either a speaking class or writing class. The back channel allows everyone to have a ‘voice’ and add to the conversation compared to a traditional classroom where one voice rules. Participants are given a link to a space where collaborative and interactive chat can take place. (See suggested tools below).
Speaking or Writing Classes
In a speaking class, a text based backchannel could be used for asking questions, sharing opinions, adding to the discussion, giving positive feedback, constructive criticism and for interpretative purposes if a second language or strong accent is used. If it is a debate, it could be used to discuss the pursuasive arguments of the speaker, their impact as a speaker, the clarity of their voice and the depth of their arguments. In a writing class it could be used in a similar way plus for brainstorming, demonstrating confusion, seeking feedback, querying concepts etc. Some backchannels now enable video. Questions can be asked immediately and the teacher answer them at an appropriate time (eg they may be working with another teacher at the time of the question). This conversation or backchannel can be saved and used for reflective and revisionary purposes. Questions and conversations can continue beyond the event.
The back channel can be very effective in a conference presentation or workshop. Participants can add questions, share resources and add opinions. These can be saved, used for further reflection and can enable the presenter to answer questions during or after the event. At the recent ACEC 2012 conference, I set up a backchannel using Teachmeet for each session and encouraged the use of twitter. However, the screenshot below shows the confusion and misunderstanding of some workshop participants and makes me aware that skills in using a backchannel need to be initially taught – a valuable lesson for me as an instructor and an element that I would be otherwise unaware of.
Some tools I have used to backchannel include
- Todays Meet – does not require registration, expires after a nominated time period.
- Chatzy – does not require registration.
- Google document
- The chat area of a virtual classroom eg Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect etc
How to use the backchannel!
- Choose a tool (I shall use todaysmeet as an example)
- Goto todaysmeet.
- Give your room a name
- Choose expiry date (I forgot to change this for ACEC2012 and now do not have a record of the conversations of two of my sessions.)
- Create room
- Save the link and share the link with participants
- Show them how to use the backchannel
- Encourage its use throughout the class or session
- In a conference or workshop, appoint a person to be a scribe and deliberatley add links/resources and answer questions where possible.
- Refer to it during the class, session, presentation and answer any questions or clarify any points
- Save the backchannel chat, refer back to it, reflect on it, answer further questions, act upon any advice for next class, session etc.
What backchannels have you used? Why do you use them? What tips or hints would you have? Have I answered the question well enough? How would you answer the question in twitter?
A one day workshop will be held as pre-conference workshop at ACEC 2012, in Perth, Western Australia. This Australian Computer Educators Conference is held every two years.
Participants will be using the following documents
- A backchannel using Today’s Meet
- A google doc for permanent sharing and support
- Twitter – for developing a professional network
- Blogs – an online space for connecting and communicating
- Wikis – a collaborative and interactive space
- Collaborative Documents:- titan pad, pirate pad, google docs
- Skype for videoconferencing
- Wallwisher – online sticky notes for eg brainstorming, reflecting, sharing
- Voicethread – online podcasting
- Answer Garden and QR Codes
Reflecting on workshop:-
What web2.0 tools do you think you could use? Add to this answer garden or scan this qr code to take you to the site:-
Please note that this session is now rescheduled for Tuesday, Sept 4th. (It was originally publicized for Tue Aug 28th)
When: Tuesday 4th September, 2012 4-5pm (Melbourne, Australia gmt+10)
About the session: Twitter has been advocated as a favourite tools for professional development and networking, by many users. As a follow up to a previous session and as a means of finishing and highlighting Connected Educator month, twitter will be revisited.
The nature and direction of this session will be determined by participants and their needs. What is a tweet, how do you keep it to 140 characters, what makes a tweet, how do you find people, organisations etc to follow, how do you keep track of tweets and hashtags etc. Come along with your questions, your experiences, things to share and let’s continue to be connected.
Here is the link to the recording of this session
What questions would you have about twitter? What knowledge could you share? Has twitter had an impact on you or your classroom?
When: Wednesday August 29th, 8-9pm, Melbourne, Australia time (gmt+10)
About the session: Loosely based on the eIgnite idea of people having a limited time to speak and taking a little bit from Teachmeet and other timed sessions, the presenters will choose either 20 slides with 20 seconds to speak to each slide or a 6 min or 10 min timing.
Our presenters and topics:
- Symbaloo (a free social bookmarking site) with Adrienne Kajewski
- Flickr (online photo management and sharing application, with ability for connecting globally) with Penny Bentley
- Quest Atlantis (virtual worlds for the young) with Ness Crouch
- Twitter with Anne Mirtschin
Here is the link to the recording. Please join us and share in the conversations and the fun!
As Connected Educator month nears to a close, requests have been made encouraging us to share how educators have got connected, sharing a journey that others may adopt and be encouraged by. Following are the online spaces that have had the most impact on my connected learning especially in the early parts of the journey.
- Blogging – where it really began. A grant from our Victorian Education Department (DEECD) required the use of web2.0 tools. Blogging looked like something I might like to do and so this blog was born. Close to this time, an email from DEECD stated that a Global Teacher and Global Student blogging campus, through edublogs, was available for Victorian teachers. This has now become global2 blogging campus. The connections commenced when Heather Blakey who was moderating the blogs encouraged her global network to comment on our class, backyard and student blogs. It was amazing to think that others across the world could visit us, read about our work and share a little of their world. We were off and running with blog entries, highly motivated and engaged. From there, a never ending journey began.
- Classroom 2.0 One of my special colleagues, Jess McCulloch a young, tech savvy teacher at my school brought to my notice the existence of Classroom 2.0 which at that time it had 3000 members from across the globe. This global classroom had been created by Steve Hargadon. Here I have met so many wonderful educators who are still part of my precious network. One of the first was Chrissy Hellier, then from New Zealand. I really wanted to do a global collaborative project with someone but had no idea what or where to start. Chrissy saw my request on Classroom 2.0, immediately said she and her class would collaborate and Anzac Connections was the product. Suddenly I was catapulted into wikis, animated text, vokis and other web2.o tools. Read more at Developing a Learning Network.
- The Flat Classroom Projects – where my students and I have learnt so many skills and been welcomed as part of a great supportive global network.
- Twitter – This is where I met Sue Waters, co- moderator of edublogs,who mentored me and suggested people to follow as twitter was just not making sense to me! Through twitter I learned of the Flat Classroom Projects.
- Hello Little World Skypers group – a group of global connected educators from across the globe who are available for conversations 24/7 and someone is always available to skype with classes, or provide advice and support.
There is much, much more but that will be another post! How did you get connected? Why don’t you write a post and share with us how you did?
The Learning 2.0 conference has now finished, but what a great conference it was with some great online sessions and some fantastic keynote addresses. One of my favourite sessions was a keynote by Lucy Gray - Social Media Tools for Personalized Professional Development. Lucy shared some great tools to use for getting connected, some suggestions of people to connect with and some great blogs to read. Here is the link to the recording of her webinar.
My session was entitled “The Changing Space of Education” and to my delight, one of my mentors and special online colleagues Peggy George, host of Classroom 2.0 LIVE was my moderator. Another of my great online colleagues, Sebastian Penakal from India was a participant. The presentation discussed how learning spaces are changing due to being connected with others. They are becoming:-
and perhaps, importantly, learning has become networked.
with learners having the power to take control and source of their learning. Examples were given from my classroom and experiences. Here is the link to the recording. In order to encourage conversations and help answer any questions, a google doc The Changing Space of Education was set up with resources referred to in my session and an area for questions from those who view the recording or who participated in the webinar. Alternatively ask any questions as a comment to this post.
Technical issues prevented my presentation being uploaded correctly, so I resorted to app sharing and used a similar presentation that had been uploaded to slideshare. This was disappointing for me as I had added more slides and tailored it specifically for this global presenation. However, here is the link to the presentation or you can see the slideshare at the beginning of this post.
How are your learning spaces changing? What impact is it having on your classroom?
Congratulations to Steve Hargadon on another amazing conference which helps connect us. Thanks to the sponsors of the conference, to the presenters and the moderators.
Whilst in New York for the Partnership for Global Learning conference, I was able to meet up with our author, Christopher Herz, who I initially met on twitter and then who came to students over lunchtimes to work with them on a shared passion for writing – Lunch with an Author. There is something very special about meeting an online colleague and mentor face to face – an event that is difficult to put into words. However, it does cement the friendship and spurs further ongoing connections.
My hotel was two blocks from Bryant Park, which became a favourite place to visit in New York. It had shaded trees, lots of seats for relaxing, New Yorkers enjoying the outdoors, table tennis tables, spaces for playing bowls, chess etc, a huge expanse of grass for picnicking and a large screen for weekly screenings of movies at night time.
Christopher and I met for breakfast in this park. It was here that he sold his first book. The New York library bordered the park and as this is one of Christopher’s favourite places, he took me for a look at the inside of this wonderful place. I love having locals take me to their favourite places. These are often so much more special than the normal tourist routes.
Discussions took place re future collaborative work with the students. After a wonderful meeting of several hours it was time to part. It is hoped that our lunchtime meetings will start up again for interested students – perhaps with a different approach. This is work in progress!
Twitter was the topic of conversation for this week’s Tech Talk Tuesday session. With a mix of prepared slides and application sharing, twitter was introduced to those who may be new to its use. It was great to welcome a global audience with participants from Austria, Honduras (Central America), Moscow, Russia and Australia.
Doodling while we waited to begin!
There was a full range of participants from experienced users of twitter through to newbies. A google document was set up for sharing and for further questions both during the webinar and after. There are two major uses of twitter:-
- as a social or professional learning networking tool
- as a search engine
People can be active participators or passive lurkers (or somewhere in between!). Here are some basic suggestions to simply get started! Twitter as a social or professional learning networking tool:-
- look for people to follow. Follow the twitter handles on the collaborative google document – Twitter Tech Talk Tuesdays. Whilst logged on, click on their twitter handles or id’s and see who they follow (ie following link up near the top of the page). Click on some and choose pnes of interest. Check out some organisations too eg museumvictoria Look at who they follow and click follow on appropriate ones. (Note: these organisations are unlikely to follow you back.)
- Learn what @ # DM RT FF shortened links etc are
- Twitter should be a two way conversation so encourage people to follow you back by setting up an informative profile that makes you interesting for prospective followers, sharing a link to your online space or blog etc.
- if you wish to tweet to a particular person or draw attention to an individual tweeter use the @ and their twitter id. eg I am alerted to tweets that have @murcha in them.
- Private conversations or ongoing conversations between individuals, are better as direct messages (DM) where only those who receive the DM will be able to read them.
- If you really like a tweet and feel you can push it out more, then choose the retweet option. This will acknowledge that it was someone else’s tweet by having RT, the tweeter’s handle and the tweet itself.
- Start with twitter, get comfortable then move onto some of the twitter clients to help with organisation and richer research.
As a search engine:-
- twitter makes a great search engine. Last night there was a second earthquake in Melbourne within a month. Look for the search option (up the top of your twitter page), key in earthquake and any tweets referring to the earthquake can be read. There are details, feelings, queries, links etc to extend knowledge.
- Look at the trending topics on the left hand side of twitter. Click on the link and read further those that interest you. These change regularly. These can often be useful with the classroom on world wide events. The Olympic games will be of high interest soon.
- Take care with searches in front of young classes as some tweets may not be suitable for reading.
Listen to the recording to see the ‘walk through twitter’, suggestions etc The chat from this session will be summarized and added to this google document – Twitter Tech Talk Tuesdays. Feel free to add your twitter id’s and any resources that you can recommend. Do you use twitter? Do you use it as a search engine? If so please add your ideas and impressions as a comment below. What further suggestions would you make? There will be a follow up session on twitter in four week’s time to see what issues people faced and talk more about using it effectively.
Following are brief summaries of further sessions attended on Monday 24th June.
Creating and Collecting Digital Work with Kevin Honeycutt and Tammy Worcestor Tammy and Kevin presented as an inspiring professional team, demonstrating apps that will provide urls or embed code. These can then be saved as links in a google sheet in digital dropbox. From there they can be accessed anywhere for printing or further use in online spaces etc.
Innovative and effective use of google maps bringing subject matter to life, using pins that feature links, videos, audio, images, notes etc.
Birds of a Feather – Global Education with Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis taking the lead completed the day. This was an informal gathering of like minded people sharing global projects, networking and opportunities and needs. Participants came from a broad range of countries.
The day was complete when an evening meal was enjoyed with Flat Classroom Teachers
in one of the restaurants in the Gaslamp area. There is something so special about meeting online colleagues face to face!