#edblognz Week 2 Challenge 1

Rather late in the piece because my head is buzzing so this will be a quickie! Just waiting for my breakout to start the morning after the night before! And what a night it was. Ulearn15 put on the razzlemadazzle once again out on the high seas with cutlass wielding pirates, rum tipsy sailors, shimmering, glimmering jellyfish, the “undead” of the Titanic and the crowd favourite “out of the box” thinking Pavarotti. He got my vote and the Twitterati vote – almost trending for the evening!

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But this post isn’t about the Gala Dinner.  One of the challenges was to find two blogger I admire, take a selfie with them and then write a blog.  The first blogger I met as I entered Sky City on Tuesday morning was the MAGICAL Anne Kenneally who amazes me with her passion and excitement. This comes through in her tweets, her FB posts and her blogs.  I didn’t buy her a coffee but I did get her safely to the Twitter Dinner!

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My other inspiring blogger is actually one of a special groups of people: my fellow #efellows14. Marnel Van der Spuy is such a passionate teacher. Her sheer joy of teaching and learning is infectious and inspiring.

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Have a read of their blogs, and connect with them on twitter @annekenn @1mvds. Be inspired!

#28daysofwriting Days 23 – 27: Gone in a flash!

So, this week has been a  blur.  How is it that some weeks we spend just chasing our tails for them always to be elusively beyond reach?  Each evening I sat down to work promising myself that I would find 28 minutes to write.  My reward when I finished the tasks I had to do for the next day.  I have a habit of looking at the clock in the corner of my computer screen and things usually go like this:  I see that it is only 8.30pm.  “Yes!”, I think, “I will get to bed before midnight, Plenty of time to write, once I have finished creating this resource, working on this policy, updating this website.”  And then I glance again and find to my disappointment that it is already 11.30 and I still haven’t finished.  I don’t think I am a slow worker, in fact, I know I am not.  But I am not very good at focussing on one thing at once.  I get sidetracked, and I know that the internet, social media and emails, don’t help me stay on task.  Not to mention books, television and researching where we can do our next training walk or planning holidays.

These are some strategies I have tried to avoid distractions;

  • Working in a room alone, no noise, no TV
  • Closing all tabs except the thing I am working on so I can’t click on them accidentally
  • Putting my phone in another room or switching it off so I don’t hear notifications and I am not tempted to pick it up and look at it
  • Having a post it note on my screen with the task I am supposed to be doing written on it to remind me that that is what I should be focussing on.

They don’t work.  Well, they do for a short time but then I get bored of being alone,  my mind starts to wander and I open Twitter to see what is happening in the world,  Or I get up to stretch my legs, load the washing, take a washing off the line, fold it, put it away, make a cup of tea, load the dishwasher, unload it, clean the kitchen, the bathroom… Not all of these things at once ore even on the same evening, of course but you get the idea of how my work is interrupted.   And then I notice my phone, pick it up, see the notifications, look at them and spend half an hour following links from tweets and FB comments.

But then, I wonder if I am in the right frame of mind to work?  Is the evening after a busy day at school the most effective time to work?   I can’t focus fully on work when I know there are so many other things that are competing for my time and attention and which I really want and need to do.  Some of my distractions are the realities and necessities of daily life, of motherhood, of family life.  I am torn between my family and my work and my play.  I wouldn’t be without any of them.  But I sometimes wonder how I can get the balance right.  Work deadlines, the demands of my students, their parents and school, seem to shout louder than my family.  And what ends up giving is my family, my home and me.   Not work.

Somehow, I have to get better at this whole work-life balance thing.  Not sure how.  Maybe I need to try to do less, better?

Playing with WeVideo

So, I have been quiet for a while on this blog but have been busy on my personal one. I have spent the last 4 weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a group of girls from school on a World Challenge Expedition. Authentic, real world learning. We kept a blog as we went to keep parents in the loop; internet cafes are all over the place and almost all the hostels and cafes have free wifi (New Zealand could learn a thing or two!) Of course, I took hundreds of photos too and so decided to try out WeVideo which is a Google App.  The free version is fine but you only have a seven and a half minutes per month and my two videos of 5 minutes and 10 minutes exceeded that!  So I decided to go for the cheapest paid version which gives me an hour a month.  It is relatively simple to use, very similar to Microsoft’s PhotoStory but infinitely slicker!  There are lots of editing options that I haven’t used – more experimentation to do!  You can link your Youtube account to it so that you can export videos to your Youtube Channel. Here is one of my efforts;

Conference envy!

I am not at Learning@schools this year as I thought I would be recovering from shoulder surgery, but have been trying to keep in touch with what is going on through the Twitter Feeds. This organisation and another similar one seem to be making an impact. I think we already have a fantastic and stimulating environment for our students to work and develop in, but there is no reason why we can’t think how we can make it better. I have the good fortune to have a brand new, beautiful classroom this year and have enjoyed being able to put posters on the walls and create a pleasant and (hopefully) stimulating learning space. However, I am conscious that what I perceive to be an environment conducive to learning, may not be what the students see as stimulating for their learning. I will observe how the classes work in the room and we can move furniture around as appropriate. Unfortunately, I had no control over the types of tables and chairs so will have to be creative around what I have been given. Nevertheless, the lighting, the ventilation, the aspect and the layout is fantastic and I look forward to welcoming the students in and encouraging them to make it their space as well as my space.

Prototype is another organisation that seeks to look at how we and the students can best use the tools at our disposal for teaching and learning. I like this statement from their website under the heading “The shift from tools to learning”; “While many ideas celebrated emerging technology and the impact of architecture, the groups’s energy focused more on “what” students (and teachers) would be challenged “to do” in a truly 21st Century learning environment.” I constantly ask myself what I can do with a tool to make it work for my students and to help their learning. All too often I end up in lectures at conferences where people talk about how wonderful a tool is without giving us any concrete ideas or example as to how it can work in a real classroom environment. I know that I can use my own imagination to create new ways of doing but in the hectic madhouse that is the academic, teaching year, there is often not the time for thought and creativity. I am lucky because I enjoy creating and thinking and imagining, and I think I have said before that I get bored easily and so need new ways to teach old stuff to keep me motivated. However. I know that others are not blessed with the time I have, nor with the inclination, and prefer to have those concrete examples given to them so they don’t have to do the thinking that they have so little time to do. And, yes, I know you might be thinking that it is good for us to take a bit of time out to think, that it actually helps us to develop and ultimately makes us feel better, but I know that it is often difficult to persuade some people that it is good for them.
I was reading a blogpost by Steve Wheeler the other day; 7 Reasons why teachers should blog and I also read the many comments on that blog which suggested many reasons why teachers didn’t blog! Time, or lack of it, was the major factor cited by many. I responded by saying that I am a firm believer in using the tools available to us to enable learning. I too have found it difficult to find time to blog, and the long gaps between my blogs reflect that. However, one of my personal goals in 2011 was to try to reflect more on my lesson, what worked and what didn’t and what I could do to modify what I did to make it more effective. I have been using Springpad to plan my lessons and reflect on how they worked. I have found that making time for that daily reflection has been hugely beneficial and I hope that I have improved my practice as a result. I will continue to use it this year. I used to use Onenote which I think is a great product but when I bought a new computer, I went Open Source and so had to find a new tool. I tried several but Springpad works for me. I like the way I can add documents, links to websites, videos, sound files to it so that I can build a sort of scheme of work with associated resources. I can also add photos, sound recordings and videos that i take in class with my phone and it automatically adds them to that lesson so that I have “evidence” of learning for my teacher registration portfolio. O-oh! Spuds are burning, better go and sort them!