What am I hoping to achieve with social media and my interest group? Focus #2/ Goal #2

Standards: 1.2; 2.3; 2.6; 4.1; 4.5; 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.4

What am I hoping to achieve with social media and my interest group, Writing Interest Group (WIG), formerly known as Competition Writing?

Why am I insisting so much on the students’ participation in the comments section of the Facebook Group or the blog, Unicorn Express?

The screen capture below gives a clue. I had shared on Facebook Jason’s blog post (sonnet).

I want the blog to be a publishing platform for student writing. I want students to write for a real audience – both their peers as well as anyone outside the school and even in other countries. I want students to know their work is being read and appreciated, and that other students will take the time to tell them so, or to leave constructive comments. My aim is connected learning, interaction and reflection after writing. I love the fact that former MHS students are still part of the Facebook group and read current students’ work, and even more when they come in to say something about it. That connection beyond the classroom, beyond the year level, the school – that’s what I want for our students. How do you think Jason Li feels when he reads what Hanford, a former MHS/WIG student, says in the comment section of the Facebook group:

I stay to get the opportunity to read things like that poem!


Virtually connecting – expanding and enhancing the conference experience for those not attending/ Focus #1; Focus #2/ Goal 2

Standards: 1.1; 1.2; 1.5; 2.6; 3.4; 4.5; 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.4;

Focus #1 – Liaise more closely with teachers so that:

  • existing online resources are more relevant and support differentiation
  • I can create new online resources to target students’ and teachers’ different needs
  • I can collaborate with teachers to create online resources, programs and teaching approaches which address giftedness/differentiation.

The Virtually Connecting experience provides a wealth of ideas and material which I am constantly sharing with teachers, and which I add to existing resources or use to edit/revise/refine existing resources.

Focus #2 Connected learning through the use of social media

Connected learning is the best kind of learning because you are learning through and with people and that means you are building knowledge and understanding through conversations . When these people have a robust online presence, connecting to them also means reading their blogs and following their passions and expertise through social media, Youtube channels, Slideshare accounts, etc., and that means that my own contribution to the learning and teaching at school is constantly being enriched and extended. Generally I don’t Google when I’m looking for things related to education, I ask people I know have expertise in areas I’m researching, or I know where to go to find what they’re reading and sharing.

In terms of my goals: making a difference to formal (including gifted) and informal teaching in the school, this kind of connected professional learning is the most effective and engaging. It’s ongoing and rewarding, and it equips me with cutting edge, high quality knowledge and resources needed in my role. It immerses me in a broad range of deep professional learning.

This year I’ve been involved in something called Virtually Connecting which was initiated by Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue.

The purpose of Virtually Connecting is to enliven virtual participation in academic conferences, widening access to a fuller conference experience for those who cannot be physically present at conferences.

Using emerging technologies, we connect onsite conference presenters with virtual participants in small groups. This allows virtual conference attendees to meet and talk with conference presenters, something not usually possible. Each session is recorded and, whenever possible, live streamed, to allow additional virtual attendees to participate in the discussion by listening and asking questions via Twitter.

Whenever possible, there are two seats in each session reserved for people we don’t know, or people who have never participated in one of our open conference discussions. This is intended to encourage participation from new people who are not necessarily connected to us.

It is our hope that through this experiment, people will not only make new connections, but they will also make weak connections stronger.

So far I’ve participated in 2 Virtually Connected hangouts – the timezone is a restriction for me here in Australia. It really is an enriching way to experience conferences you can’t attend – and let’s face it, living in Australia, how many of us can attend international conferences? Even if I attended the conference physically, I wouldn’t necessarily be in conversation with keynote speakers or people I didn’t know so the Virtually Connected experience gives you the opportunity to be part of a conversation with these people as well as connecting to other people at the conference and those connecting through the hangout. You get a chance to ask questions and take part in the conversation, but even if you don’t have a lot to add you are still in the room during the real-time conversation.

I like the fact that the backchannel exists as an added layer during the live hangout. It gives you a chance to be active during the listening by bringing up questions or additional idea or information and interacting with the other members of the hangout.

It’s also a perfect way to ask a question without interrupting the speaker – and a good way to ask before you forget! The people speaking will have an eye on the backchannel and answer the question when they’re ready.  Of course, there’s another backchannel which is on Twitter and that’s open to those people following the hangout but not directly involved. To do all those things at once – listen to the hangout, participate by speaking, participate in the hangout backchannel and participate in the Twitter backchannel – that’s a serious brain-stretching exercise! But fun, for sure.

After the hangout I find the people I’ve just met on Twitter or Google+ or wherever they are, follow them and add their blogs to my Inoreader. It’s a brilliant way of doing PD because you continue to interact with these people and keep up with their writing and conversations.

Sometimes you haven’t been able to actively follow the conference sessions before the hangout – because you’re at school! – and so you don’t actually have a lot to say but it still feels like you’re in the room and the opportunity to speak up is there.

My participation in these hangouts has been fairly low-key. Firstly because it’s new to me and I’m a bit overwhelmed with the collective knowledge of the people in the room, but also because I’m learning on the spot from the conference speakers and don’t want to ask questions for the sake of asking them. The backchannel is great for this kind of situation although you can’t see it on the video.  I think with practice I could increase my participation in the face-to-face conversation especially if I’ve had time to keep up with the conference. Work gets in the way!!

You can see a bit of that backchannel interaction here where Virtually Connecting facilitators promote their involvement in Educause 2015 conference.
You can see all Virtually Connected hangouts archived in their video channel.


Digital writing project – collaborating with people from all over the world #digiwrimo/ Focus #2/Goal 2

Standards: 1.5; 2.2; 3.4; 4.5; 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.4


Infographic created by Kevin Hodgson, one of the facilitators of Digital Writing Month.

It’s been a pleasure taking part in Digital Writing Month #digiwrimo for the first time. This kind of professional development is rich and leads to more connections with people who are interesting, creative and generous with their readiness to collaborate and share. I learn so much from these people during the activity and then continue to do so on social media so the learning never stops and the relationships keep developing. My interest group, WIG (Writing Interest Group formerly known as Competition Writing Group), directly benefits from the ideas and resources I glean from my participation in Digiwrimo, and of course they benefit from me being inspired and passionate about writing and connectedness of writers. Next year I hope to draw on the ideas shared in Digiwrimo and other MOOCs to introduce new, engaging activities to WIG students, as well as share these things with English teachers.

Some examples of my participation in Digiwrimo are:

My unofficial geographic CV (scroll down to see the interaction with people also participating);

My ‘As if’ poem inspired by Michelle Pacansky-Brock;

My contribution to the Storyjumper (Chapter 10 of 26), a global, collaborative digital story which I’ve written about here and here.

For me, the best and most satisfying professional development is immersion in collaborative activities with people all over the world – something that leads to ongoing relationships through the use of social media. This is learning from and with people, not just a one-off session about discrete skills or content.


Thinglink created by Wendy Taleo

The value of online connections and, yes, relationships/Social Media for 21st century learning/ Focus #2

Standards: 1.2; 2.3; 2.6; 4.1; 4.5; 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.4

Surely one of the best ways to understand how students learn is to become a learner yourself. If we’re preparing our students for their world then we need to practise some of the 21st century skills ourselves. When you take part in online courses you are using digital technologies to connect to others – wherever they are in the world – and you are learning how to communicate using contemporary language, adjusting style and tone, including other media to your text. You are also taking on the vulnerability that students experience when they share their ideas or write a creative piece.

Don’t tell me you cannot form a relationship online. Connected Courses, Rhizo15, CLMOOC – all of these MOOCs led to ongoing connections with people, some which I consider as friends. You can define friends in different ways, but when you know how a person thinks, what their interests and passions are, and you discuss with them what matters most to you in your personal and professional life – then you probably  know some of these people better than you know your colleagues at school.

What I do online always informs and enriches what I do as teacher librarian at school.

Case in point.

I met Laura Gibbs during a MOOC called Connected Courses and follow her on Twitter and Google +. Following someone is a lot more specific than it sounds. When you follow someone online you keep track of what they share – be that ideas, opinons, expertise, questions, or resources. In Laura’s case, apart from the richness of her shared expertise and resourcing, I have recently linked to her extensive online treasury of mythology, folklore and fairytales in a Libguide which I’ve shared with our English/Literature teachers. Laura’s life work resides in this collection and she is more than happy to share it rather than restrict it to her own students. In fact, she is excited that her work will be used by Australian students and teachers.

Laura is only one of the many people I’m happy to know online.  I recently reflected about the value of relationships on social media when preparing a 7 minute talk for the TeachMeet my colleagues and I are organising for tomorrow. The post is extensive and I’ve tried to capture the essence of why I value my social network.  You can read the post or look through the presentation below.

Maha Bali is another person I met online, someone I call friend. I’ve interacted with Maha through several MOOCs, regular Twitter conversations, and through my recent involvement with Maha’s incentive, Virtually Connecting. Maha has written a great post in which she thinks about what it actually means to know someone online.

I can “know” some people online, through their writing, better than people I know face-to-face in some ways. I’ve made wrong assumptions, sure, but that happens face-to-face as well.

Is it because online, text forces you to make some parts of your thinking more explicit? Is it the distortion of time/space that occurs online, that allows one to have a continuous conversation over days or weeks, during the wee hours of the morning, while in the car or at work or in bed, when our defenses are down? You can’t have that in real life except with a family member or roommate, and it would seem to be stifling to have it with that many people. But online, it’s not.

Amongst other things, Maha was part of a MOOC cohort (Connected Courses) which joined me in rewriting a short play I’d written – and we ended up recording our parts in a radio play – even though we lived in different parts of the world. That was one of the most creative and collaboratively satisfying things I’ve ever done! Wouldn’t it be amazing to enable our students to do something similar?

Thinking about data – “What we need are new ways to read the data…” /Student survey

Standards: 1.2; 4.5; 5.1

This image is from a Slideshare presentation, Emergent Learning, by Jesse Stommel and Amy Collier.

When designing and evaluating my student survey I started to think about how we might gain insight into student learning so that we can design surveys that produced valuable data to inform our teaching philosophy.  I found the ideas by Jesse and Amy to be worthy of consideration.  Here is the link to the complete slideshow.

I was going to pull out a few slides that resonated with me regarding student learning, assessment and learning outcomes, but there were so many and I included most of them.

Professional Exchange – PD @MHS/ Focus #1 and #2

Standards: 1.2; 6.1; 6.2; 6.3

I had several ideas for what I could present at our Professional Exchange sessions in term 4 2015. Most of them centred on examples of learning technologies that could potentially enhance teaching and learning, for example, different technology tools to be used for collaborative online annotation, or ways to bookmark and curate websites in the Cloud. It was on my mind through the term 3 holidays but I kept thinking that I really wanted to offer a session just for teachers, just for their own learning and enjoyment without it always being related to their teaching. In the end, after changing my mind a few times, I decided to take a (big) risk and offer a writing challenge. I wrote about it in this blog post.  Of course I had to do it myself before I expected anyone else to do it.  I was worried that nobody would turn up for this session because I’m guessed they might either not see the point or else be intimidated by it.

In fact there was a good turnout for the session (thank you!) and we had a lot of fun together. You can read about it here.


Student survey – Competition Writing – Focus #2

Standards: 1.2; 1.3; 1.5; 2.6; 4.5; 5.1

I surveyed the members of my co-curricular group, Competition Writing, and also my leaders.

Eleven students responded to the survey.  A summary of responses is linked here.

My survey of the group’s leaders: Zachary Sunter (Captain), William Lim (co-captain) and Eeshan Dhingran (co-captain). Two of the three leaders responded to the leadership survey.  A summary of responses is linked here.

Students enjoyed interaction and discussion just as much, or even more, than formal learning about writing technique. This year I asked the leaders to ensure that students spent at least part of each session writing and not just listening to presentations. This was one of my goals as there was a poor balance between interactive and passive activities in the previous years. I have been pleased with the amount of active participation this year although students are usually happier to write than to take part in discussion.

The leaders were very well liked this year and with good reason.  The leaders themselves also enjoyed their roles. I think the language they used in their responses (‘egalitarian’, ‘cooperation’ and ‘interpersonal skills’) indicates they understand that leadership is about service and collaboration. The leaders worked hard to generate enthusiasm for writing within the group. Most challenging for them was juggling their time between academic and leadership commitments, as well as engaging the group and organising interactive activities. I was pleased that leaders found leading the sessions less intimidating than they had expected – I was aware of the shyness of the captain and one of the co-captains, and put my trust in them as young men who would nevertheless demonstrate important leadership qualities. They did not disappoint.

Interaction within the Facebook group continues to be problematic, and the leaders’ survey responses conveyed an awareness of this also.  As I am regularly reading other educators’ observations about the encouragement of deep conversation online, I am aware that this is one of the hardest things, and requires in-context explicit teaching and practice. Some people mistakenly think that this generation is digitally savvy but fail to realise that their digital behaviour does not include interaction on a deeper level. The same goes for reading others’ blog posts (shared in the Facebook group) and commenting. It’s difficult to break out of the traditional one-way direction of writing for your teacher. Students have been constantly encouraged to read posts shared by their colleagues and leave some feedback. This actually occurred rarely, especially the feedback (again, traditionally the domain of the teacher), and usually only by the leaders.  There is a lot to be said about the value of blogging – when successful – in the way that it encourages collaborative reading and constructive feedback which require students to learn how to reflect and evaluate other’s writing, and therefore gets them to think about what constitutes good or poor writing. This is one of the reasons why I try so hard to convince English teachers to use blogging for all student writing – if only to have the class read each others’ work and learn how to evaluate it. The latter is much more valuable than just submitting work to the teacher and receiving feedback from one teacher which is a passive activity.

Sharing with wider community at TeachMeet @MHS / Focus #1 and #2

Standards: 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.1; 7.4

(This has been reposted from my other blog.)

These kinds of professional meetings are invaluable. Apart from the fact that it’s free and so you can attend many throughout the year. I love the format which consists of voluntary talks/presentations of either 3 or 7 minutes, so easy to keep focusing. Sometimes long keynotes can be difficult to digest (although they can be good  – but they can also be not so good). TeachMeets are informal so the short presentation lends itself to discussion – therefore it’s more interactive than most formal PDs. The range of educational settings is great to broaden your perspective – and so we can learn so much from primary and museum settings, from elearning and tertiary people. The emphasis is most certainly on getting to know people and also in connecting with them through social media so that the PD value is extended and they possibly become part of your network.

I always blog about things and so I aim to capture information which might be useful to others – whether they are in my own school or anywhere else. I like using the blog for reflection and evaluation, and for re-reading later.

As teacher librarian whose focus is constantly cross-curricular, I never waste any morsel of information, knowledge, resource or expertise. Everything is carefully curated in my archival system – either in Diigo, Pinterest, Pocket, Scoop.it or similar so that I can locate it when someone needs it, or when I want to create a resource for teachers or students.

Last Saturday we hosted a TeachMeet in the school library. A TeachMeet is an informal gathering of people working in the education sector coming together to share ideas and expertise. It’s a great way to hear about what educators are doing in the primary, secondary, tertiary and public (eg museums) sectors. TeachMeets happen all over the world and meetings are held wherever people are happy to host. The format is simple – you can turn up or you can volunteer to present for either 3 or 7 minutes. There is usually a break for refreshments halfway through and it’s also customary for the hosts to suggest a nearby venue for drinks or dinner after the Meet. And it’s free!

Using bots to teach kids coding (Steve Brophy)

You can see in the wiki that we had a decent number of people attending, from a range of educational backgrounds. I always find that, as a secondary school educator, I learn so much from the primary teachers, from e-learning leaders, from people who work in public libraries and museums. And since the sharing sessions are so short, there is time for what’s most important – the conversations. Many people are also on social media so it’s a good chance to keep in touch later on Twitter or through their blogs, for example.

Order of presentations (see TeachMeet link for shared presentations):

Steve Brophy @stevebrophy Ivanhoe Grammar School K-12: Paper and programming

Bernadette Mercieca @bernm9  Xavier College E-Learning coord/teacher: What are we doing to help early career teachers flourish?

Eleni Kyritsis @misskyritsis Firbank Grammar School: Student Inquiry

Jan Molloy @janpcim Immigration Museum P-tertiary:   #AskACurator Sept 16 Getting involved

Catherine Morton @gorokegirl Melbourne High School Teacher Librarian and Fiona Matthews Whitefriars College Lead Coach – Learning, Teaching and Technology : One Conversation at a Time: Peer Coaching

Kim Yeomans @kimyeo St Martin of Tours primary TL: Connecting with authors via Twitter.

Tania Sheko @taniatorikova Melbourne High School How to really get to know people online.

Mel Cashen @melcashen Princes Hill: My reflection from camp

Kristy Wood @Kristy_M_Wood Primary teacher K-6: Teacher wellbeing

If you are interested in learning more about the presentations – since you can’t really get much from the titles – I would encourage you to go to the wiki where some people have already shared links to their presentations next to their names in the program. I’m sure there will be more shared later so check in again.

When I wrote a blog post about my talk – how to really get to know people online – I shared it on Twitter with a few people whom I’d met in an online course (MOOC), Rhizo15. These were people I had mentioned in my post. The morning before the TeachMeet I noticed some feedback from these people (none of them in Australia) which I was able to quickly add to my slide presentation. It was a lovely example of how these relationships continue to evolve long after the course (MOOC) has finished. After the TeachMeet I noticed Kevin Hodgson had even created a comic for us – very special.

The best way to see some of the ideas and passion shared on this day is to look through the Storify below which captures some of the tweets and photos on Twitter.

[View the story “TeachMeet @MHS” on Storify]

Presentation at Teachmeet we hosted @MHS/ Focus #2

Standards: 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.1; 7.4

(This post was written as a transcript of a short presentation I gave at a Melbourne TeachMeet at Melbourne High School 12 September 2015).

How do you really get to know people in an online course? Ask a child! What would a child do? A child would play.

And so we did in Rhizo15, the connected MOOC. It was new to me and I loved every minute.

I wanted to be playful so I wrote a play. In response to the weekly prompt: “Learning subjectives: designing for when you don’t know where you’re going.”

I was unsure about how people would feel about the play – and if they would read it at all – so I was surprised when I received lots of positive comments (blog comments don’t always happen for me) and Terry Elliott suggested we make it into a radio play. Simon Ensor added the comment: “I second Terry. I’m in for rhizoradio or other play. Do we have to do casting for the role of Mr X or do we crowdcast?”

I felt encouraged and sent out an invitation to a Google Doc so we could write the play collaboratively.

Hello there. My name is Tania Sheko. Thanks for responding so positively to this short piece of fiction/non-fiction. I’m taking up the suggestion to create something for #rhizoradio (suggested by Terry Elliott and seconded by Simon Ensor) and other suggestions to do a collaborative rewrite eg include a larger cast so we can actually (somehow) create a podcast for #rhizoradio (which is going to be a thing I think). Hope you can join me here!

But how would we bring everyone together to produce the radio play/podcast?

Maha (from Cairo) was thinking about a live reading:

It’s near impossible to organize across timezones but if you sleep really late and I wake really early we might catch the ppl in the US 😉 or the opposite, if u wake really early and I sleep really late we can make it at a good time for everyone. Usually around 10pm my time that’s 2pm EDT and I think early-ish morning for you?

In the end we decided to record our own parts on SoundCloud and send the file to Kevin Hodgson who generously took the time to put it all together.

Other things also happened – you can’t keep up with the rhizome. Actually, so much happened while I was sleeping last night:

Autumm Caines created a really neat video promo.

Autumm used the image created by Angela Brown in Pulp-O-Mizer.

Kevin Hodgson used Thinglink for his promo.

Sarah Honeychurch had fun remixing a popular Christmas tune for her promo.

Here’s the final version of the play (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Google doc version continues to evolve).

My original story, Mr X loses his battle for objectivity, has been stormed, hacked and now exists as an evolved creation belonging to those playing and learning in the rhizome (#rhizo15). It is no longer mine and that’s a fantastic thing, something I’m excited about. Thank you, everyone, for the experience – in particular to Kevin for putting together the audio files – but also to those contributing voices, to the voices in the chat comments for the evolving Google doc, to those on Twitter and other social media platforms, to the creative people designing promos, and anyone else I’ve forgotten.  I know it sounds as if I’m accepting an Oscar (haha) but I really do want to thank all of you for the fun we’ve had together.

#Rhizoradio presents a radio play courtesy of the #rhizo15 community:

A Multitude of Voices

(aka) Mr X loses his battle for objectivity ( original unevolved title fromthe original story)

Was this a success in educational terms? We had fun!

Maha: it was some of the BEST fun I ever had… wish I could find a way to encourage my students to do something like this of their own initiative, but that’s not thinking rhizomatically… so I should think of how to create an environment that encourages the spirit of this kind of thing and see what emerges from their work!!!

We unpacked rhizomatic learning collaboratively and creatively. We got to know each other through play. We were amazed by each other – as each person initiated ideas and created things because they were inspired to do so. We keep in touch – in subsequent MOOCs, through hashtag conversations on Twitter. We reach out to each other with questions and challenges. We jump in when we see requests for collaboration and opportunities to do things together. I learned about different tech tools but more importantly why and how to use them. I added their blogs to my Inoreader, so I could keep reading them, I followed them on Twitter and made sure I added a Tweetdeck column to see what they were saying/doing, I explored what else they did online eg Soundcloud, Slideshare, Google +, in Facebook groups, and wherever else they were.

Don’t tell me that you can’t form friendships online.

After the presentations when we had the opportunity to chat at the pub (which is where all the great conversation takes place) someone said to me that they were expecting me to talk about risk when showing them how I shared my play, not knowing how people would respond. I could definitely have talked about risk and so many other things but the 7 minutes didn’t allow it.  Risk is part of play and creativity – you never know if what you share will be taken up, ignored or worse! What’s important in this situation is trust – trust that you know the people in your community well enough to be able to go out on a limb. That’s the difference between network and community in my opinion. Rhizo15 was (and still is) a community in which you got to know people well enough that you were able to take risks and be supported. In my case, my experimentation with the play as a way of playfully addressing the ‘learning subjectives’ was not only appreciated by people but they came in and played with me further. We remixed the play together and did so many other things that were creative and allowed people to bring their understanding and expertise to what is actually a serious academic context. Through play we achieved something we could not have done if we were just writing out our thoughts in a traditional way. I think there’s a lot more I could explore here about play, and that will have to wait.

Peer observation – Triad (Amanda Carroll/year 10 English)

Standards: 1.5; 2.6; 3.2; 4.5; 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4

Today I had the opportunity to work with Amanda Carroll’s year 10D English class. They have been thinking about the theme of evil within the Hearts of Darkness unit and have discussed and annotated a selection of poetry on the theme of evil.

Here is my issue with the one-off lessons we (teacher librarians) do for things like this PD requirement or in our general situation:

I haven’t been present during all the thinking and discussion that has taken place prior to this lesson. I would have liked to have been part of that learning process, to develop a rapport with the students, and to learn alongside them.

The one-off lesson is limited; its purpose is didactic – to teach a discrete skill or technique. It is not an integrated kind of teaching. I didn’t know many of the boys so I wasn’t able to address them by name. I could only hope that my one-off lesson works for the short time they have my attention.

It didn’t.

Although I had come in before school to set up the technology so that I could demonstrate things on the screen, the computer was situated on a low table facing the front. As you can imagine, as I’m navigating from tab to tab, opening up links online, I’m seated and with my back to the students. That’s no way to teach. I tried rotating the computer but the wires restricted this, and the table is so low that I can’t stand and use the mouse.

There was no way I could maintain the students’ interest with barely any eye contact and with my focus on the computer. My confidence was affected and I knew I was struggling to keep the boys engaged. Don’t get me wrong – they were great and mostly attentive but I was aware that I was focused more on what I was doing on the computer while swivelling back and forth, than I was on developing the thinking behind the activity.

I knew Amanda was not only concerned with the technology tool, I knew she wanted to unpack the concept of evil, for the students to relate back to poems they had studied (which I hadn’t read), for the search for images, quotes, websites and videos to be following the critical thinking beyond the search term, ‘evil’, to dig deeper and encompass aspects and synonyms they had been thinking about in previous lessons. To be honest I didn’t feel I’d been able to do this part properly because of my technical issues.

I realise now that I should have taken notice of my instincts and not tried to also talk about the new feature for research within Google Docs, to talk also about the search engine, Athenir, which unpacks the search term and gives a visual representation for the different aspects of the term. But when you only have one chance to share things with a class, it’s very difficult not to take the opportunity. And so I also showed students the online resources I had curated for ‘Hearts of Darkness’ in a Pinterest board which was linked from the library website. So that meant that I was trying to tell students about too many things at once. Not telling them would also not work.

If this was my class I wouldn’t have to try to cram too much into one lesson. But for a teacher librarian, who has to fight, cajole, beg teachers that she has something of value to add to the students’ learning, it’s more likely to be a short stint and less than the length of one lesson.

The other issue is that it can only be a didactic lesson which is not the ideal way for learning to occur. It’s frustrating because I’m aware that this kind of lesson doesn’t work very well but I’m often forced to work within these confines. It would be more valuable to work with students individually or in small groups as they learn to research their terms and think about the point of using something like Thinglink than stand at the front (sit at the front with my back to them in my case) and give instructions. I’m aware that this is the lowest form of teaching even when it does work.

So although I’ve been negative so far – and it’s probably because I really want to be successful in enriching the learning that’s already taking place in Amanda’s class (and any others I come into), the students were doing fine with the task. I walked around and saw the range of images they had chosen to pin their links to, and would have like the opportunity to ask them why they had chosen these images. As Amanda kept reminding them, they need to think more specifically about what or who represented evil to ensure that their images were specific to their individual perception.

And now my observation of Amanda’s part in the class:

It was evident  that she knew her class well, and that she was in the middle of a unit of work she had thought about and carefully orchestrated. She was clear in her summary of where the students should have been by that stage, she was clear in her projection of what students were to attain by the end of the lesson and for homework.  Amanda reminded them repeatedly about the thinking behind their search and their selection of image onto which they would pin their chosen images/quotes/videos, etc. She was confident, approachable, helpful and succinct. She checked that her students were keeping up on their screens by asking randomly selected students to read sections out loud.

My observation is short but I would appreciate the opportunity to be in Amanda’s class over a period of time to see how she unpacks units of work, how she engages her students, how she fosters a love for literature and ideas, how she creates a rich learning environment. Today I saw some of this.

My lesson  plan and links are here.

Here is Amanda’s observation of my teaching of her class:

Professional Observation:  Tania Sheko

Date: 8 September 2015

Observer: Amanda Carroll

Class: Year 10D English

Lesson Focus: to use thinglink  to engage students in exploring the significance of a quotation about the nature of evil by enabling effective research methods and the organising of resources in different forms (video, sound, images, text, websites) into a cohesive, interactive thinglink.

Location: T10

Students involved: 26

Professional Focus:

  • to be an integral part of the teaching and learning in the English classroom
  • to enable a means of differentiation through providing opportunities for students think deeply and make connections between their learning.

Tania had organised her work station and presentation prior to this lesson so that there was no time wasted accessing the material for the lesson.  I know, speaking with her afterwards, that she felt that the position of the teacher computer at the front of the classroom facing the board meant that both operating the presentation and addressing the students directly was very difficult and stressful but none of this was apparent in her delivery which was clear and succinct.  Observing the lesson, however, all students were engaged and focussed on the presentation, which include clips and examples of the ways thinglink could be used.  The students were particularly impressed with the cycling example and vocalised their approval.  Tania’s presentation also included Athenir search engine which students could use as an alternative to Google when trying to identify related material on the internet and the Pinterest board that is another way of organising information. 

After initially providing the students with a series of examples, Tania went on to add to a model thinglink – an image to which ‘hotspots’ are added with links to a variety of media – which she had prepared prior to the lesson on the topic of evil.  This demonstrated the stages and steps involved in constructing an interactive thinglink image.  Students had the opportunity to comment and contribute to the demonstration.  They then got to work on their own thinglink which took a quotation about evil then linked it to a range of resources which illuminate the idea in the quotation of their choice.  Students were focussed logging in to thinglink and began to select their images and link their materials.  Student began the construction of their thinglinks with the ultimate aim for them to be uploaded to their blogs.  Tania circulated the room attending to individuals’ needs – assisting them both with the material relevant to the Hearts of Darkness unit and the thinglink user experience.  The class ended with a follow-up session scheduled for the library.


Questions for reflection:

  • How can students’ creativity be supported and encouraged to take them beyond the first results of a google image search (ie plugging in ‘evil’ and then taking the first image that appears)?
  • What kind of support is required from the IT department to enable students to readily access the technology in the classroom environment and how can the technology problems be anticipated/avoided since some of these are particular to individual students?