Tag Archives: Blogging

Moments of Growing Up⤴

from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

aberdeenAberdeen. I don’t know why it has taken me twenty years to write about this, but it has. Twenty years ago,  sitting on a train leaving Aberdeen for the last time. A life lived.

It seemed such an event at the time, such a turning point, a real change in my life. I had gone there an uneducated wanderer, in search of a life and a love, and was leaving a University graduate with everything in front of me. A train journey to something else, something different. Tom Waits on the Walkman – yes, a walkman, with cassettes – deliberately set up and picked out. ‘Goodbye, so long. The road calls me, dear.’ Not that it seemed like a choice, really. It was the end of something. The end of University. The end of the job I had, the last meaningless, mindless job I would ever have. The end of several relationships, relationships which would naturally end – associates, colleagues, course mates – and some I’d hope to keep or we’d promised to keep. Knew we would not.

‘Goodbye, so long.’ And the emotion I felt that day should not have been a surprise but it was. I knew this time was coming. A scarcely held back tear. A sudden realisation, as the train pulled away, that it was genuinely the end of something special, a time that would not only prove to be the making of me in many ways but one which would define who I was. Like a hugely important era in my history. ‘The road calls me, dear.’ The grey, wistful mumble of the train heading over the bridge, over the river, to a new world. The river that separates. Past from present, then from now.

 I’ve rarely returned to Aberdeen, merely the odd occasion, and never for very long. Not the same. Either I’ve changed or it has. Probably both. I think of the people I knew and no longer know and I smile. But I don’t regret, never regret. Aberdeen. It seemed like my home forever at the time. Should have known better. A life apart, that some other person lived. ‘Goodbye, so long.’ Tom Waits knew what he was on about.

There have been at least two other times in my life, at least, when I thought to myself that this was it for me, my life will never change. The first came when I was about twenty two. Still at home, still in a terrible nowhere job, still with the same friends. Don’t get me wrong, the friends I had then helped me through my terrible years, my drinking years. Always there, always by my side. And they would still be if life did not require us to live differently. Our proud, loud, male existence.

There never was a quiet pint, never ‘just the one’. And therein lies the problem.

No, if you went out, you went out. At about twenty two I recall an evening when one of our crowd, always this one – the loud and aggressive one rather than the loud and funny one – was particularly loud and aggressive. You could sense a tension in the crowd, had been for a while. We felt or knew that we were coming to the end of something but did not know how to do it.

A situation which almost came to blows, involving me for no other reason than silence and complicity. I didn’t need this any more. I remember very distinctly thinking that this could not go on. An epiphany which began the end of that particular part of my life. I recall walking (slightly) behind my staggering friends – for they were my friends, remember – and thinking that this could be it for me, This life, unless I acted. The next pub we went to – for we did go to another pub – saw me standing quietly to the side. I would like to say that I, somewhat romantically, gave a silent toast to my friends and left but that is not what happened. What did happen was that I brooded silently, eventually took a final look all around me, a final sip and walked out, home. Soon after, by coincidence rather than design, I left East Kilbride, much like leaving Aberdeen six years later. I continued to see these friends, occasionally,  for some time after but all had things to do, business to take care of, living to do and we lost touch. We all became different people.

Some of us actually grew up.


Another Years Blogging⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

In 2015 my blogging was dominated by Glow Blogs and WordPress. This year the picture was a little different. Here is a Wordle of my 2016 titles.

Wordle 2016

WordPress stays near the top and Glow Blogs featured quite often but not in the titles of the post. 23 Things, Open (including OER16) and Edutalk stand out.

Most of my time in 2015 was taken up by Glow Blogs, 2016 brought big changes, before I’d got used to being back in my substantive post, supporting ICT in North Lanarkshire, I found myself being redeployed into a class teachers role. I’ve not blogged much about that, sticking to technology: some in the classroom, some more general.

The post Questioning Glow got most reaction.

A fair number of posts are under the 23 things banner and I’ve become even more interested in thinking about the the way that using software affects us. I think the questions I talked about at Always on (them): Digital and Social Media use in Education #DigitalUWS are important.

Apart from my Radio Edutalk contributions, which slacked a bit this year I made several microcasts here. There are just short, unedited podcasts, in my case posted from my phone. I doubt that many were listening but I enjoy the format.

My most popular post was An interesting mix: Chromebook and Raspberry pi. This was a passing interest as I no longer have access to a chromebook. I did blog a fair bit about my Pi(s) which continue to interest me.

As I prepare for think about my 13th year blogging, this blog continues to meander through topics that take my fancy, often it feels like me alone. I often read about how to make your blog more popular, and continue to break most of that advice.

Featured image: A quick gif made for #tdc1818 The End is Near! Make a GIF | The (new) Daily Create, I’ve not created as much as I would have liked for the daily create, but I still recommend it as a great exercise for playing with digital and your imagination.

    Another fine 23 Things to get into⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    IMG_0134.jpeg

    Last week after our DS106 Good Spell broadcast Mariana told me about 23 Things. This looks like an interesting course for Edinburgh University students, staff and anyone with access to the internet.

    I had a quick look at the list of things covered in the course 23 Things List – 23 Things. These look interesting enough to sign up.

    The idea is to try out a couple of things each week and blog about them. So here we go

    Week One: Introduction and Blogging – 23 Things

    Write a blog post and tag it 23ThingsEdUni. (When you tag a blog post with 23ThingsEdUni, so long as your blog has been registered, that post will be pulled into our 23 Things Community Blog. This way you can share your thoughts and experiences with others on the programme.)
    Use your blog to write a short post about:
    A) what you hope to gain out of the 23 Things programme.
    B) were you aware of the University’s Social Media Guidelines for Staff and Researchers or the student Social Media Student Handbook? What do you think of the guidelines/handbook?

    A. I hope to rethink the sort of things I’ve been doing online for a while. Take the opportunity to dig in to some things I think I know about in a little depth. Some of my ideas have not been revisited for quite a few years.

    I am also interested in taking another open online course, I’ve been hanging round ds106 for a while and ran a couple of small course for primary schools last year. I’ve a real belief that these types of course can be pretty powerful.

    B. I was aware of North Lanarkshire’s Social Media policy. One of thing I really like about it is that they recognise that schools can use social media in useful ways and need to have a deal of freedom in doing so.

    The council uses third-party software to manage its social media networks. Any new official page/site will be required to be managed using this software. There is an exception for Learning & Leisure services staff in schools where social media is used as part of a teaching and learning environment or as a communication tool.

    My Emphasis.

    I’ve a twitter list of NLC Schools which is quite vibrant.

    *Featured image: Flickr Photo: Bobbi Newman – CC BY-NC-SA

    Back to class and classroom blogging⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

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    For the last few (twelve) years I’ve been a enthusiastic proponent of blogging by pupils. I only actually carried this out in the classroom from 2004 till 2008 when I started work in North Lanarkshire as an ICT staff development officer.

    Since then I’ve run plenty of courses around blogging, continued to blog myself and investigated lots of blogging systems. I also support pupils setting up e-Portfolio blogs in many classroom in flying visits. I spent a couple of years working on Glow Blogs and continue to provide support for Glow Blogs on a part time basis.

    I’ve got a strong opinion of the positive value of pupils posting about their learning. I hope as I provided support and encouragement for pupil posting that I kept in mind the difficulties of organising this in class.

    I am now back to eating my own dog food and again in the position to blog about ‘Teaching, ict, and suchlike’ from the position of a classroom teacher.

    In many respects I’ve landed on my feet. I’ve got a very small class of delightful pupils, a good range of hardware and due to the small numbers, bandwidth that is not awful.

    However I am feeling pretty out of my depth in regards to the changes in curriculum and practise that have happened in my absence from the classroom.

    Beginning with blogs

    On the practising what you preach front I’ve started using Glow Blogs. We set up e-Portfolos a couple of weeks ago. I am pretty pleased all the hard work of the Glow Blogs team has paid off from a technical angle. I am not working to hard on the idea of profiling yet, just trying to get the class enthused about owning their own space.

    We have also started a class blog Banton Biggies – The Tallest Class in Banton Primary and the pupils have made a couple of posts. Fell free to pop over and leave us a comment.

    First thing I’ve noticed is that it doesn’t get any easier organising time for pupils to post. The ideal is to give them enough time to write a well written reflective post, but also not missing out on too much of the current classroom activity.

    The other thing that has changed is the familiarity of current pupils with the Internet. There is a lot of that I need to explore and discuss. Being a YouTuber is an aspiration of more than one pupil I am working with.

    Of course this familiarity with the Internet does not come packaged with some of the things I an interested, safety, copyright, controlling your own data, along with technical skills, knowledge of file types, urls, keyboard shortcuts and the rest. A lot of learning will hopefully be sparked by discussing blogging.

    We have also started using Glow O365, mostly word and Onedrive so far and I’ll have a fair bit to reflect on that too. I also set up a Yammer group for the pupils, with little instruction about what to do with it. There was a huge wave of enthusiasm from the pupils, but left to their own devices they have mostly posted hi messages. I think I’ll have to seed the group with some ideas to get things going.

    Joining some dots

    What I am hoping that I can do with the blogging is to start the pupils reading other pupils posts making some connections perhaps with other small schools. Hopefully I can get a podcast together too, watch that space.

    Get in touch if you have pupils posting that would like a few comments or would be interested in some sort of blog to blog communication. It might take me a wee while to get going but that’s the direction I hope to travel in.

    Featured image: Flickr Photo: simpleinsomnia – CC BY stamped with attribution with FlickrCC Stampr

    Be Nice⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    beenice
    1. They comment on other people’s posts.
    2. They like other people’s posts.
    3. They share them.
    4. They…

    from: What do nice Internet users do?

    Click through to see all 12 points from Dave Winer who should know, having blogged as long than anyone.

    From a education PoV good advice for reading and responding to pupils post, but applicable everywhere.

    Featured image: Nice to be important by Michelle Grewe on Flickr shared with a Creative Commons — CC0 1.0 Universal license, which was nice.

    Look back at random⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    random-flickr

    Here’s a fun thing to try if you’ve been blogging for a while (Warning: may not actually be fun). Get a random date from when you started blogging until present (eg using this random date generator), find the post nearest that date and revisit it.
    ….

    1. What, if anything, is still relevant?
    2. What has changed?
    3. Does this reveal anything more generally about my discipline?
    4. What is my personal reaction to it?

    from: Revisiting my own (blog) past | The Ed TechieThe Ed Techie

    I’ve a random button1 here and occasionally look back without the the discipline that Martin Weller suggested.  I gave this more thoughtful approach a go.

    I came up with this: Impermanence and Comments from 10 years ago.

    That post was just a placeholder to link to a favourite post by one of my pupils. There was not much analysis, but hopefully pointing out that pupils posting and engaging with an audience is a powerful tool in the classroom.

    I do think this is still relevant, there are a lot more primary school using Social media and blogging now as there was then. I also think that it is good to have examples of pupils doing the blogging and that can have value. Now it seems like a lot of posts come from teachers as opposed to learners.

    It is also particularly relevant to me as I’ll be returning, with some trepidation, to class teaching after more than eight years next week.

    What has changes is the average 10 year old is a lot more used to publishing to the Internet, plenty use FaceBook, instagram or have a YouTube channel. I wonder if writing for the web will have the same excitement.

    I am not sure such a short post reveals anything about my discipline, except that I’ve consistently believed that blogging should help to give an audience and purpose to pupil writing and learning.

    My personal reaction was quiet pleasure at finding the pupil’s poem and the cross continent conversation that went with it. I do hope I can help provide opportunities for pupils to do the same again.

    Finally I remembered that the Sandaig Site will probably be decommissioned very soon. This made me a little sad. It did let me edit the post and click the amber button to send the original poem post to the Internet archive.

    Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.20.50

    The Featured image on this post is one of my own flickr photos, created by blending two random CC flickr photos, with this toy or its slightly older sibling.

    1. The link on my blog uses a trick appending /?random to a WordPress blog url gives a random post, I learnt that from an old dog.

    Can You Share the Link, Please – Read Write Respond⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    In regards to sharing openly, Doug Belshaw recommend s creating a canonical URL. The intent is to provide a starting point for people to engage with and build upon your work and ideas. This could be one space in which to share everything or you could have a separate link for each project. What matters is that it is public.
      Arron Davis on the importance of sharing and linking. As well as being a great link this is a test post, pulling in content from my pinboard links with FeedWordPress and saving them as a pending post, with the custom format of pinboard. The posts are marked as pending, allowing me to mark up the quote and add some text.  The title of the post should link to Arron's blog rather than mine. I hope there is a nice wee pinboard icon on the left.

    ImageOptim⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    imageOptim

    I know we are in the days of lots of free space, but it is worth remembering when blogging (or making webpages) shrinking images is worth doing for your visitors.

    I don’t always do it, but today as I updates a Glow Blogs Help page, I saved nearly half the space by using, ImageOptim — better Save for Web.

    There are other tools, but this one is free & open source, works on a Mac, but lists and links to windows & linux tools.

    Microcast 3: Whose blog is it anyway?⤴

    from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

    IMG_0080.jpeg

    Last week I attended the morning of the Always on (them) event at the University of the West of Scotland. This was organised by Professor David McGillivary. It looked at Digital and Social Media use in Education.

    Last week I posted a brief summary of my talk and links to the audio I recorded for EDUtalk.

    I ended my talk with a few questions that I though were worth thinking about. This is the first of a few microcasts doing just that.

    Here a three questions I think go together:

    • Are we getting the best out of Social Media?
    • Should pupils be more involved in posting?
    • Do we read others productions or are we using SM mainly as a broadcast?

    These are the easiest questions to start with. They come from the recent rapid expansion in the number of schools blogging and using Twitter across Scotland. I am comparing it to how I though blogging was going to go when I was actively involved in classroom blogging with pupils from 2004 till 2008.

    At that time I primarily though about blogging as an activity for pupils. I also tried to get my pupils reading some other pupil blogs, doing a wee bit of commenting, occasionally blogging in reaction and the like. This was quite time consuming. It did lead to some interesting experiences.

    We did not perceive much of an impact on our local community or even parents. Only getting engagement online for parents when we went away for week long school trips.

    Reading class and school blogs more recently I get the impression that they are more targeted at local community and parents and are largely authored by staff.

    A couple of days before the event I tried to see if I could gets some numbers to back up this impression.

    Glow blogs consists of 33 instance of WordPress one for each Local Authority and one central. Each has a home page listing up to 40 of the most recently updated public blogs.

    I did a bit of scripting to:

    • Scrape a list of urls from each LA page (1212 blogs)
    • Download the RSS feed latest posts from each of these blogs (9002 posts)
    • get the authors for all of these posts.

    From that I could guess that users that were Mr, Ms, Mrs, Miss, Dr and the like were adults, there are a few who use their glow usernames which I discarded and some who have initial second name who I presume are adults. Finally I removed a few familiar faces who I know are not pupils.
    This left me with 15% of posts that could have been posted by pupils. I suspect it is even lower as some teachers use their full name as their display name on Glow Blogs.

    This is quite different that the figure I would have guessed 10 years ago. At that point I though blogging would have become a place for pupils to share their learning and gain audience and for teachers to post for professional development. It looks like we are using blogs more to broadcast to parents and community.

    I’d be really interested in finding out about school use of Twitter in a similar fashion. It appears to me that most of the tweets are coming from teachers. I wonder if there is discussion of what is tweeted with pupils, if classes look at other schools tweets. How much engagement between classes and learners is going on? Is Twitter part of learning or is it mostly used by schools to showcase that learning?

    In both blogging and tweeting is the idea of more pupil voice a good one? Is it too complex to manage? Is there anything to be gained by engaging with other classes and groups of learners?

    I have always presumed that these were good ideas. They don’t seem to have gained the popularity I expected.

    I seem to have ended up with even more questions than I started with. Given it looks like I’ll be teaching in school next session I am looking forward to testing some of these things out in reality.

    featured image: Portable shortwave transmitter | Flickr – Photo Sharing! used under a Creative Commons — Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic — CC BY-NC 2.0 licenses.

    Not Just Confidence. But Integrity. A ‘sort of’ Review of ‘The Confident Teacher’ by Alex Quigley⤴

    from @ Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday

    confidentThere’s a long walk up from York City Centre to Huntington School but it’s a beautiful day, unexpectedly beautiful, and I’m soaking in it. My first visit to the city and, after a nervous, sleep-interrupted night in a TravelLodge, Research-Ed is getting ever closer. I’m listening to Teenage Fan Club. I recall it clearly; Songs From Northern Britain; a nod to my three hour trip from Glasgow the night before; the real Northern Britain. To the jangly guitar twang of ‘Ain’t That Enough’ the humble and ordinary looking Huntington School appears to my right. Yet despite that ordinariness, a welcoming aura surrounds the place.

    That welcome feeling defines the school. Throughout the day, the words ‘honourable’, ‘humble’ , integrity’, pepper my notebook. Personified in their remarkable head teacher, John Tomsett, and the one speaker I really want to hear, Alex Quigley, Huntington School in May 2014 is everything you expect it to be. Pupils, in on a Saturday, justly proud of their school, go out of their way to assist. I get my talk out of the way – a poetry-based analysis of Scotland’s curricular development. Yeah, I know, right- and wallow in the atmosphere. If I had ever wondered about the kind of school I’d like to be a part of then on that day I found it.

    Two years on, and both John and Alex have become successful authors. There’s a lot of them about in Education. The Twitter world has spawned a multitude of new voices. These two rise above them all. The humanity and integrity I witnessed two years ago shine on every page of John’s book – I blogged about it here – but Alex’s new book, The Confident Teacher, is a different thing altogether.  I loved his first book, Teach Now. Becoming a Great English Teacher. However, the new one achieves something of which most other Education books find themselves falling short.

    Like the echo chamber of social media, very few teachers I know bother to read Edubooks. They don’t have the time. There’s a feeling that reading about new approaches and techniques is just another burden on top of the mountain of work we have to complete already. I can teach well. Why should I read your book? Alex’s book does something quite remarkable. I read a lot of these things and, perhaps for the first time, I think ‘The Confident Teacher’ speaks to teachers as equals. It understands the real issues we experience and never patronises. It is practical, positive, hopeful. It is a book written with integrity, humility and a deep, deep passion for teaching. It has knocked me sideways.

    Leaving York that night on the evening train back to Northern Britain, I reflected on what I’d experienced that day. I remember little of the sessions apart from my own, the day was too much of blur for that. But I took away an image of the kind of experience I’d hope my school provided. I love my school and hope we display the characteristics of Huntington, at least on some days.

    This might not be a book review as such, but I’d recommend Alex’s book to any teacher looking for some practical advice on how to improve our day. Reading it took me back a couple of years; to a school that operated on confidence, with confident staff and pupils. Read it now.