Category Archives: Reflecting

Life is good!

It has been some time since I made a post here. I retired this past summer and I have been busy doing many things – exploring new avenues of learning, spending time with the grandkids, catching up on many projects that have been put off for far too many years, visiting family and friends, and just doing a lot of reflection. I have been keeping up with the blogosphere through my readings. but very little participation at this time. I will always miss blogging with kids in the classroom, maybe later. But for now, life is good!

I’m still involved in writing up the remaining research pieces from the blogging study Ewa McGrail and I particpated in together at an elementary school. It continues to amaze me how much time it takes to really put together good, thoughtful, authentic pieces. I learn more about this each day. Currently we are shaping one up on on how classroom blogging affects elementary students’ writing.

I’m participating in a Flickr group 2010/365 Photos and hoping that this will help me learn more about photography. I’ve only ever used “point and click” cameras but always wanted to learn more so I’m jumping in and having a lot of fun. The group is terrific and what a network of learning! I started another blog, T1i Insights, to catalog my learning on a new camera, the Canon T1i. I also created another blog, Anne’s 2010/365 Photos, to post the pictures I take. I do have much to learn so be aware you are just going to see some “beginner” shots! Feel free to make suggestions and offer advice – it is needed!

I’m headed over to comment on some blogs from students in Ewa’s Theory and Pedagogy in the Study of Writing class blog. The student blogs are on the blogroll on the right hand side. Join me if you feel so inclined!

32/ 365 -- Good Goals for Life by vanhookc, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  vanhookc 

Reflecting on their learning

reflection bubbles

One of my fifth grade bloggers recently posted about an enrichment camp she attended over fall break. I have been giving a lot of thought lately to ways to bump up their reflections. Generally students of this age will say they had fun, were bored, liked it or didn’t, or similar responses. They have not been asked to do a lot beyond that. I am working on helping the fifth grade students improve their reflective writing posts and asked these questions of one of the students:

  • What did you learn?
  • How do you know you learned it?
  • What got in the way of your learning?
  • What helped your learning?
  • How did you feel?

    Any suggestions of other ways to ask questions to help them think a little deeper about their learning????

    Flickr photo credit: Reflections in bubbles from Lance and Erin’s photostream

  • Learning from others

    On the Yahoo Groups list for classblogmeister Lorraine from New Zealand shares her reflection templates to use in blogging. She was inspired by reading Konrad’s post and has created a post/article reflection and a comment reflection.  Her link led me to a great wiki that contains excellent info on their collaborative learning community. I really like this wiki. Thanks Lorraine for taking the time to share!  Keep up the great work! And as you know, one link leads to another – here’s her blog. It’s a good read, too! One post was about the danger of embedded links. Look at the comments to see how our community responds! Here’s her follow up post on this issue. And of course I have always been a fan of SlideShare. Look how they address the dilemma here. I second Lorraine’s “thumbs up” to SlideShare.

    Reflection Think-Aloud 1

    sunset and flowersI’m going to try to start a series of think-alouds on various aspects of blogging that I feel are relevant to classroom blogging, areas where I want to do a better job next year when I return to J. H. House to do another blogging project with a classroom teacher. These think-alouds are going to be places where I do quick writes that will hopefully help me on this journey. Perhaps I can then put them together later (after I have done some reflecting) in a wiki or some other source.

    Reflection by students on their learning is key and I have posted about this before.

    Blogs are great spaces for students to reflect on what they are learning. I remember an instance in my classroom years ago when I asked a student to tell me what was going on inside his head, what was he thinking? He just gave me with a blank look and did not understand what I was asking. Many times we assume students are doing certain things as they are “thinking” . We need to figure out ways to check this more often with our students. If we talk with students more we can help them learn how to do some “self-talk” inside their head that will help them learn from their current experiences and in the process help them build a model of how they might want to learn from future experiences. We could help them with questions that they might want to ask themselves. If we listen and acknowledge and respond to their answers, it could help them understand the internal audience that they could speak to when they are ready to reflect about their learning. I believe we need to give our students many opportunities to practice this.

    We need to encourage our students to tell the story of what they are learning – not just a regurgitation of the facts but one where they explore how they might use these facts or share how they have applied those learning of facts to something that is going on in their lives. Students need help putting their experiences into words.

    A previous posts on reflections:

    Reflection articles

    (Revisit some of the questioning “possibilities” in this post.

    Write down the most pressing question that is on their mind after a
    lesson. If they don’t have one have them imagine what another peer’s
    question might be? Then the next day have them comment to one of their classmates’ questions.

    Re-state something said during class discussion and add something to the conversation.

    Could there be another point of view on resolving a problem or an issue? Develop it.

    Pose one multiple choice question and one essay type question for the
    material we covered today. Which one would assess learning better and
    why? This could make for a great classroom discussion on assessment.
    Imagine yourself as the expert of this subject. Predict what will change in the next five years and give your reasons.

    If you had only a few minutes to summarize the lesson today what
    would be the best way to do that so someone would remember what you said?

    Can you give an example of how we could check to be sure if the information we are using is accurate?

    State what is unclear to you about what we discussed. Have another student try to clarify for you.

    Write down a “think aloud” about something you are interested in
    learning about that you believe is relevant and is related to what we
    are studying in class.

    I need to think about adding to this list. Think more on what might work best.

    Feedback is welcomed!!

    Photo Credit: Sunset & flowers by Powi…(ponanwi)’s photostream

    What matters?

    I read Karl Fisch’s post about What Matters? with great interest. I think Karl and his group of teachers are really doing a fantastic job with their students. We need to hear more about what is going on with our students. I recently skyped with Karl and Anne Smith. It was great to connect and talk possibilities. Anne Smith has the most amazing blogs. I have poured over them and I think the thing I like the best is the way she includes her students in the reflecting and thinking process. It is front and center and the focus is always on the students. Anne says:

    I am just having a difficult time trying to find the line between feeling like I am leading them to the answer I am looking for (i.e. my what matters example) and having them struggle to find their own understanding – what I feel like they should be looking for.”

    That really resonates with me. I have exactly the same feeling when I work with my elementary students and push them to reflect about their own learnings. It is not something they are used to doing. Also getting them to be risk-takers and not focus on what the teacher wants with their answers but instead what do they want? What do they think would work? I think it is a scary process at first for the students. Yet I believe with all my heart that if we worked at getting more responses from them, help then learn how to write reflectively and honestly, and give them opportunities to do this frequently…..we would all learn much that would help us in this journey. They need to be in on these types of conversations. And what better place to have these conversations than on blogs!

    I am working with a language arts teacher, Mary Ann, who is just beginning to blog. She has read through Anne’s blogs and I can just see the light bulbs going off in her head. See her first two posts, Water, Water, Everywhere! and Say it in your own words! Great posts for a beginner, right? She is still pouring through Anne’s blogs and those light bulbs keep flashing! I know we will be starting Mary Ann’s students out on some type of “What Matters?” post. What a model from which to learn! (Thank you Anne!)

    Tomorrow I go back to the school. As usual, I can’t wait!

    Reflections on some “awesome” learning

    I enjoyed being a part of Dean Shareski’s online/face2face class last week. Dean is so right when he says “Learning is Messy, but Good.” Dean is great about sharing his reflections about his learning and his students. We all get to learn and that is soooooo good.

    I shared a bit about the invisible web. Here is another link I found that provides additional information, “Those Dark Hiding Places: The Invisible Web Revealed.”

    David Jakes and Alan Levine talked about Del.icio.us and Twitter. Dean provides a recording of the session here.

    Students shared their learnings. We truly do all learn from each other. I’ve been reading the well-written student blogs. See the links to the student blogs here. They are good reads.

    The next day Brian, one of Dean’s students, posted this which certainly bears repeating:

    The best comment of all was that in the future we will get 15 minutes of anonymous instead of 15 minutes of fame. This really does hit the nail on the head because with everybody publishing on the web their own movies and videos, and collaborating with wiki’s blog’s and rss feeds we will all be famous. Well famous enough for the world to see and read about us, learn from us and move farther forward and faster than without us. If this isn’t fame I don’t know what is and it is truly awesome. 

    I agree. It is truly awesome….

    A better way to spend our time

    It is very important that we provide many opportunities for students to talk about what they are learning and the strategies they are using to question and learn. Open dialogue that welcomes the voices of the students in a give and take spirit is what is needed, not just one way conversations spoken mostly by the teacher. I can’t think of many teachers who wouldn’t want this but our current “testing” focus on skill, skill, skills really gets in the way. Most schools have completed the week long testing agendas and you can almost hear the collective sign of relief through the schools. I’ve even heard some comment on how nice it is now that they can get to some fun projects and take some time to “enjoy” the learning. That’s more than sad.

    If we took the time we spend in schools on testing and spent it on writing as a means to improve learning in our schools we’d be much further along. Writing can be a tool for learning in all disciplines.

    Blogging is a space that gives them that needed practice with writing. I first got into blogging as a means to improve student writing as well as my own writing. Blogging truly gives students reasons, authentic reasons to write and the commenting feature adds to the conversations. We need conversations that encourage and make students comfortable to give their opinions. We can help clarify understandings and lead the way to help students to become better thinkers. It’s an additional avenue to do further reading and thinking. It’s a place where we can teach them about responsible public writing and how to make a difference. Just musing……

                

    I miss blogging!

    I am consumed with keeping all the pieces of this research on blogging into a manageable form that will be useful as we start this summer digging into all that has transpired and what it means. I have had much to learn about the research process and one side aspect of this project is that I have been unable to blog in the manner that I am accustomed to. I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize the results. The problem is that I don’t know what areas those are so mostly I have been quiet about everything. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve started but then not finished. I’m also knee deep in transcribing sessions. I’ve been using Dragon software – my less than “affectionate” name for the software is Cruella. Transcribing is a tedious and time-consuming process.

    At this point I have so many thoughts in my head. So many truly interesting things have been going on and the conversations with students tell us so much. Now bear in mind that I have no idea at this point what the results will be but the difficult part for me is that there are so many areas that I want to blog about with this community and I have felt great frustration in being silent. I miss being able to blog about whatever crosses my mind. I will be able to do that at some point and I know that but boy do I wish I could have the conversations now. Those conversations are how I as the teacher get feedback that in turn gets me rethinking and considering other aspects that I may not have noticed. I think the research is more important than the blogging at this point but I also think some aspects of research need revising. I have enough sense to know though that I have much to learn in this area so I’m trying to be patient and keep learning. Let my understandings unfold and keep on working at learning to have patience!
    I had an interesting conversation with Rena Shifflet this past weekend. She told me about a book that said research was a lonely process. The book was Particularities by George Noblit. I need to read it. I met Rena at a workshop at NECC in Seattle. She had created some really great blogging projects. I look forward to following her blog and know she will add much to our conversations. She gets the possibilities that blogging and other web tools offer.

    Rationale for educational blogging

    I was recently asked to give a rationale for educational blogging. I thought I’d share what I wrote and invite comment.

    Blogs are reshaping our environment. They are beginning to emerge in large numbers in the educational field and offer great potential to transform learning and teaching. It is about new literacies appropriate for this time. The quote below comes from Don Leu, to be published soon in a book by the International Reading Association (http://www.sp.uconn.edu/~djleu/newlit.html) I feel it is a very appropriate focus as relates to the new literacies and blogging for educators. Donald Leu of Syracuse University expresses it far better than I ever could.

    “The new literacies include the skills, strategies, and insights necessary to successfully exploit the rapidly changing information and communication technologies that continuously emerge in our world. A more precise definition of the new literacies may never be possible to achieve since their most important characteristic is that they regularly change; as new technologies for information and communication continually appear, new literacies emerge (Bruce, 1997; Leu, in press a; Reinking, 1998). Moreover, these changes often take place faster than we are able to completely evaluate them. Regular change is a defining characteristic of the new literacies. 
     
    This simple observation has profound consequences for literacy and literacy education. The continuously changing technologies of literacy mean that we must help children learn how to learn new technologies of literacy. In fact, the ability to learn continuously changing technologies for literacy may be a more critical target than learning any particular technology of literacy itself.” 

    There are many skills and concepts that need to be addressed to effectively help teachers learn to use blogs throughout their curriculum to foster these new literacies. It is not just a matter of transferring classroom writing into digital spaces. Teachers need to address writing for a public audience, how to cite and link and why, how to use the comment tool in pedagogical ways, how to read web materials more efficiently as well as explore other ways to consider pedagogical uses of blogs. Blogging requires us to teach students to critically engage media. Students need instruction on how to become efficient navigators in these digital spaces where they will be obtaining a majority of their information.
    Blogging is educationally sound for teaching students because:

    • Blogs provide a space for sharing opinions and learning in order to grow communities of discourse and knowledge — a space where students and teachers can learn from each other.
    • Blogs help learners to see knowledge as interconnected as opposed to a set of discrete facts.
    • Blogs can give students a totally new perspective on the meaning of voice. As students explore their own learning and thinking and their distinctive voices emerge. Student voices are essential to the conversations we need to have about learning.
    • Blogs foster ownership and choice. They help lead us away from students trying to find what the teacher wants in terms of an answer.
    • The worldwide audience provides recognition for students that can be quite profound. Students feel more compelled to write when they believe many others may read and respond. It gives them motivation to excel. Students need to be taught skills to foster a contributing audience on their blog.
    • The archive feature of blogging records ongoing learning. It facilitates reflection and evaluation. One student told me that he could easily find his thoughts on a matter and he could see how his thinking had changed and why.
    • The opportunity for collective and collaborative learning is enormous. Students have the opportunity to read their classmates’ blogs and those of others. This is not possible in a regular classroom setting.
    • Blogging provides the possibility of connecting with experts on the topic students are writing.
    • The interactive nature of blogging creates enthusiasm for writing and communication.
    • Blogging engages students in conversation and learning.
    • Blogging encourages global conversations about learning–conversations not previously possible in our classrooms.
    • Blogging provides the opportunity for our students to learn to write for life-long learning.
    • Blogging affords us the opportunity to teach responsible public writing. Students can learn about the power of the published word and the responsibilities involved with public writing.

    Darren is truly making “A Difference”

    Recently I presented a workshop session on blogging at the GaETC conference. I had a Skype call with Darren Kuropatwa. I wanted him to share the positive aspects of blogging that he had experienced with his class. Some amazing things came out of that call. First, Darren shared how his students summarize what they are learning through the scribe posts on the class blog. He explains it so well on the podcast. He uses a paradigm he borrowed from med school – watch it, do it, teach it. His students are writng the textbook for the class. The examples he shared were fantastic. He shared how he uses the chat box so his students have homework help 24-7. The students use delicious to create a resource file to help each class member. Then the wiki solutions manual is the space where students solve, annotate, and correct each others’ work. Listen to the podcast to get his explanations. What is so impressive to me is that Darren has truly put this in the hands of his students. They have ownership of their learning. They work as a team. It is the best use of blogging that I’ve seen in a classroom.

    Then another story developed as we were skyping. I commented on the first time that I had seen Darren’s blog and how it blew me away. I am not and have never been a good math student but as I was reading his blog I got so excited because it made me feel that I could still learn these math concepts that had alluded me in the past. See my post here: A Math Weblog to Note. I can still remember that day and how I explored his blog in depth. It was exciting. Now the neat thing here is I heard the other side of that story, as did my workshop participants. Darren recalled how how intense the feeling was for him hearing how someone a half a continent away had been impacted by the work he was doing. Now here’s the best part of the story. Darren said his first reaction was “My students need to feel this.” His first thoughts were how to give that to his students. A true teacher! Now that’s a feeling that many of us have had and have seen firsthand when students blog. I’ve had many moments to share with students when they were just blown away that someone thought something they wrote was good or someone added to the conversation about something they were blogging about in class. Darren said in the skype call that this was what blogging is all about, that motivation from an authentic audience. I thought it would be good to share this piece because it could be used to share with administrators and others to get an idea of what blogging can be all about. Teachers need to set the stage and guide it. No one does that better than Darren.
    I’ve thought about it a lot since the workshop and I’ve also thought about how Darren has captured the essence of blogging and then gone that extra step to share it all with others. Then each year he has built on the pedagogy and shaped and reshaped his learning and teaching. Darren is not just a math teacher. He is an incredible writing teacher as well. He knows how to use writing, blogging, and the Internet to learn. He guides his class and steps aside to let them own it. Just check out Living in Whoville and you’ll see. It gives me chills.This digital story is a class project. You can see links to some of the other projects that tell the story of what his kids have accomplished. It is awesome.
    Now listen to the podcast, DarrenAnne.mp3, and listen to the two sides of the story. Just think what could lie ahead for our students! It is inspiring. He is really empowering the student in a way that totally focuses on the pedagogy – no small task. Plus the work is in the hands of the students. They own it! It is a model to follow. I can’t wait to cast my vote this year in the EduBlog Awards 2006.