Connecting through Kiva

About the time I retired at the end of 2011, I heard of Kiva from my brother.

What is Kiva about?

It is a cycle where you make a loan of $25 to someone who has applied through a Field Partner in their country.  While the loan is happening, you get updates each month of how much has been given back to you. Once you have been repaid the money, then you can cycle again and start a new loan. Check out this video of Pedro the farmer and how his loan works.

I began with 2 loans and as at December 2012 have donated 20 loans of which 4 are completely paid back. I have just added a widget to my sidebar, showing the loans I have made.

Instead of doing it alone, I decided to join a team or group with similar interests. As one of my hobbies is genealogy I joined the “Genealogists for Families”  team. We have 252 members from all around the world and in total have made 1,794 loans.

If you would like to make a loan, click my link here. Every loan made by my invitees means I also get to make a new loan.

Why not look into Kiva as a way of studying microfinance in school?  It is another way of bringing the world to your students and they can do something to help other families around the world who are less fortunate than themselves.

Time to get back in the swing

Already the first month of the year is nearly over and it is time to get back to organizing the student blogging challenge which I run twice a year.

I am taking part in an #etmooc at the moment where over 1000 educators are trying to connect in a world of educational technology. Many are finding it difficult with twitter, blogging, tweetdeck, wikis, Google+ hangouts, Skyping and so on. They are being challenged to get out of their comfort zone by using tools they are unsure of such as movie making using YouTube, Vimeo, slideshows with HaikuDeck, Animoto and Photopeach. Many are going to go back to their classrooms to try out these new tools with their students. With having such a large group of educators in the one place, they need a hub where they can find lots of information and places to connect with others. This is the etmooc blog with its calendars and schedules and blog feeds.

Yet how do we teach students about being part of the big global network that is out there?

Beginning with the student blogging challenge is just one way. You can also go blog dipping and quad blogging.

Once students have their own blogs we need to teach them about how to use the internet effectively and efficiently by using RSS feeds and subscribing to blogs – using readers or aggregators to bring the information to them, rather than them wasting time searching for it.

So if you are interested in helping a group of students do just this, why not become a mentor for the student blogging challenge which will start in March? Visit this post to find out more and register.

Image: ‘slightly neurotic office hours?

Hello blog long time since I visited

It is a long time since I have used this blog. You will notice I have now retired from teaching after 35 years. But…… once a teacher always a teacher.

I work one day a week teaching teachers about blogging with their classes. I help them set up a class blog, how to create an about page for their blog as well as how to teach commenting skills to their students.  This often involves travelling to schools from one end of the state to another.  In two weeks time, I will be running three one day sessions for about 50 teachers in total who want to learn how to blog with their classes ranging from early childhood through to college.

I have also decided to take part in an educational technology MOOC #etmooc .  I took part in a mooc last year about looking at my digital footprint. This was run by Verena who is also one of the conspirators or facilitators for this new mooc. I noticed at their blog hub there are over 1000 educators taking part. WOW! Lots of global collaboration.

In February I will be getting ready to run the student blogging challenge. Hundreds of classes and students taking part with lots of ideas for challenges. I will certainly get some pointers from the etmooc that I can incorporate in these challenges.

ISTE2013 in San Antonio will be my next big stint of travelling. Hopefully spend time in Washington DC first, visiting the museums, then hire a car to drive the southern states of USA, to finally finish in Texas at the conference. I will be presenting Sunday evening about the student blogging challenge. I had a great time there last year where I met Sue Waters from Western Australia for the first time, despite us both living in Australia.

So that was a little about my retirement, relaxation and travel for this year.

PS I also need to spend some time on this blog to get it updated with links and perhaps some new categories and tags.  When will I find the time?

Image: ‘retirement

Quality meme

Over the last week or so, a meme has been circulating about  quality blogging and commenting. Silvia from the Langwitches blog asked Kathleen Morris to continue the meme and hence it came to me from Kathleen.

I, like Kathleen, began blogging with my own personal blog back in 2008. At that stage I didn’t really know about quality commenting. I then started a class blog for my grade 6/7 students whom I had for most of each school day. I would often use a comment as a teachable moment in writing but I still hadn’t cottoned on to teaching explicitly ‘how to write a quality comment’.

Reading a lot of blogs to get more ideas, I came across Linda Yollis and her idea of one and two point comments.

By this time in 2010 I no longer had just my class. Instead I had 6 different classes for computers but only one block per week and no follow up from their homegroup teachers. Each student in those six classes had their own personal blog where I was the only teacher leaving comments. I was also running an international student blogging challenge.

Teaching quality comments meant in one block showing the video and blog post by Linda to each class, discuss it and have students leave quality comments on each other’s blogs.

In some lessons, I would project a post written by a student onto the whiteboard and we would discuss the pros and cons, but more often than not, I would leave a personal comment on the blog explaining how the post/comment could be improved.

As a literacy teacher, I would remind the student to use a spellchecker or proofread more carefully. I would also mention that names of TV programs should be in quotation marks or in italics.

As a maths teacher, I would ask, “What about those people who don’t watch either of those?” How are they mentioned in your survey? I would also mention labelling of a header in a graph.

As a computer teacher, I would mention other ways of collecting data such as using a poll or survey widget on the blog.

As a literacy teacher, I would remind the student about use of capital letters, using ‘And’ to start a sentence and using a spellchecker. Praise given for paragraphing and use of capital ‘I’.

As the maths teacher who set the task, I would ask for more details regarding the task – remind author that the readers don’t know what was required and you need to explain that in the post.

As the computer teacher, I  might ask for an image to be included of the draft and final product to help your readers understand the task through a visual.

I am now going to pass this meme along to some other teachers – but first a reminder from Silvia about the meme:

Quality Blogging and Commenting Audit Meme

In order to gather more audit samples from a large variety of age groups and authors, I challenge you to publish a blog post with a post or comment audit.

  1. Select a blog post or blog comment to audit (Professional or Student)
  2. Take a screenshot or copy and past the post or comment into your blog post (be sensitive whether you want to reveal any names or references)
  3. Include or link to the rubric you use to assess the quality of post or comment
  4. Audit the post or comment by describing your train of thought regarding the level of quality you would assess your chosen post or comment
  5. Suggest how you would coach the author of audited post or comment to improve
  6. Tag (at least) three educators and challenge them to audit a post or comment
  7. Leave a comment with the link to your audit post on Langwitches

Could the following teachers continue this meme:

Denise Krebs, Theresa Allen and Anne Mirtschin

My Edublog Award nominations

Long time since I have posted on my personal blog, but now it is time to share my nominations for the 2011 Edublog awards. Having run the student blogging challenge, I have noticed some excellent blogs by both classes and students. So here are my recommendations:

  • Best individual blog is from Tracy Watanabe who writes about her roles in integrating IT into her school district.
  • Best group blog is called Our World, Our Stories
  • Best new blog is Daniela, a student from Columbia, who took part in the student blogging challenge. She always asked questions about how to improve her blog.
  • Best class blog has to be Mrs Yollis who is so influential with blogging month, using html code, quality commenting and always involving her students in the presentations
  • Best student blog is Teegan from New Zealand who this year has been a mentor for the younger students in the student blogging challenge in September 2011.
  • Best ed tech/resource sharing is Teach Gen Now a fortnightly post about a new tool to try in the classroom
  • Most influential blog post is about quality commenting by Mrs Linda Yollis and her students
  • Best twitter hashtag has to be #comments4kids as this allows  student blog posts to be shared on Twitter.
  • Best teacher blog is from Kathleen Morris who is always ready to share her knowledge and interests with others around the world
  • Best librarian blog is from Mrs Hembree and the Bulldog Readers
  • Best open PD is Anne Mirtschin and her Australia Series.



Staff IT training

I have offered some IT training to staff at school over the last year. Occasionally, people have asked for my help but this year I decided to ask them to fill in a survey I created using Google docs – when I sent the email to all staff, Google thought I had been a spammer and disabled my accounts until I gave them enough info to know it was me not a bot spamming. Many staff mentioned they wanted Smartboard training.

Many classrooms now have this magnificent tool in them and I am hoping they are used for more than watching videos. It has taken many weeks to get the Smartboards put up in the classrooms, then to get them connected correctly as well as find the cords and pens so teachers can finally use them in class.

So this week was the first group of activities playing with  Smartboards. I have on our school intranet many links to various blogs and activities using Smartboards so it is a matter of the teachers now looking through them to find lessons they could use or coming to my sessions to learn some tips and tricks when using the boards.

This week we watched a teacher training video by Russell Stannard. It began with:

  • a basic introduction,
  • looked at pens and how to change their width,
  • add arrows to the ends of lines,
  • using the highlighter,
  • how to save your notebook pages,
  • export pages to students,
  • finding images relating to topics the staff wanted to use in class.

I stopped the video at this stage to allow a play session but found some teachers did not have the Essentials for Educators loaded on their computers so before the session next week they will need to have that organized.

During the play session, we also looked at:

  • aligning the boards through the control panel,
  • recognizing writing to change into type,
  • dragging and dropping from the gallery,
  • drawing straight lines on the board.

In total, over two one hour sessions after school, 6 staff attended the trainings. MOT, JF, AK, DD, SC, EW   I also had three apologies KW, AB, LMcD


Original image: ‘Interactive Interactive – Laura

Interactive Interactive - Laura

by: Dan Zen  Released under an Attribution License


What do you think are the next most important things I should be showing the staff  about Smartboards during these sessions? Are there any blogs, videos etc you would recommend the staff be looking at?

Embedding media

In ‘Kick start your blogging’ activity 6, we have to embed some media in a blog post.

I love trying out new things with students so decided to create a ToonDoo cartoon. I had been to the site before, but I always have problems finding the embed code. Same thing happened today.

So to find your embed code once you have created and saved a Toondoo.

  • Go back to your log in page at Toondoo.
  • Hover over Toons in top left corner.
  • Click on My Toons then click on the toon you want to embed.
  • Underneath the cartoon you have created are 13 icons representing various things you can do with your Toon.

Can you guess which icon represents the embed code?

Yep the one <>, just like you see in the code when you put it in your post.

  • Click on the double arrow icon, and the word copied will appear.
  • Immediately go to your post where you have already written everything you need, including tags and categories.
  • Change the editor from visual to HTML.
  • Paste in the code you now have by using Ctrl V.
  • Immediately hit Publish. DON”T change back to visual editor or you might lose the embed code and have to put it in again.

What to do now?

Zoom out from my image

One of the students in last September’s student blogging challenge suggested using images to zoom away from. Here are some examples to look at and then in your comments here, you can zoom out from my image. Each zoom comment should add to the story of the image.

Teegan, Huzzah, Jacqueline, Abbey, Mrs Daugherty, 4/5S, Becky,


Original image: ‘Teal peel‘

by: Ken Chan  Released under an Attribution-NonCommercial License

Page spring cleaning

For the third activity in the teacher challenge, we are asked to look at pages. As you can see, on my personal blog, I only have an ‘About’ page which I have updated last night. (Learnt how to use slideshare to embed on this page.)

But the blog I use more often during term time is my grade 6/7 ICT blog. This has lots of pages on it. Some of them shown here.


Why does it have so many pages?

As I am the only teacher using blogs in the school, I wanted somewhere where all students and teachers could come to find resources relating to both ICT  as well as other subject areas.

In Tasmania, we have grade 6 and grade 10 ICT checklists which are sent home to parents at the end of that particular year. Students are expected to show their level of skill in each area of the checklist.

The students in grades 6/7/8 are split into different level classes for literacy so again , one area for links was handier but this year the literacy co-ordinator has decided to start a blog as well for her subject area.

All students in grade 6/7 have taster courses in LOTE (languages other than English) so one source for links was easier for those students and teachers.

You will also notice I have a link to many of the different pages on the right sidebar as well, might make it easier to find than looking through the header for some viewers.

With this being my last year of teaching, I am hoping to continue this blog this year and perhaps get the home group teachers of the grade 6/7 classes to become administrators as well, just so the blog continues after I leave.

How many teachers are blogging in your school?

How do you try to convince them that it is a fantastic way for students and staff to have a voice in the world and to write for an authentic audience?

Effective posts

What makes an effective post often depends on the reader. Some of you may enjoy reading long pages of writing in paragraphs, of course. Yet other people enjoy having the visual aspect in a blog post – lots of images appropriate to the writing. Maybe you prefer both visual and auditory with multimedia added to the blog post.

Many of you taking part in the challenge are looking to use blogging with students, so as the organizer of the student blogging challenge who looks at hundreds of student posts, I thought I would pick a few of these for you to visit and then please come back here to leave a comment about the effectiveness of the student post.

Some of the students have been blogging for about 6 months, others only weeks (like many of you.)

Which post did you enjoy the most and why?

Olivia and Teegan did an audit of their blogs which was the 10th challenge.

Abbey and Eileen used a new tool on their blogs.

Megan and Jacqueline appreciate visitors to their blogs.

EmilyTate, Ashley and Simone wrote about their digital footprints.

Alexandra and Indy played the count out three game and visited other student blogs.

Theresa, Becky and Lochy chose images and wrote about them.

Jesse, Katya and Nicole recommend places to visit.


Original image: ‘Laptop desks in the computer science building

Laptop desks in the computer science building

by: James

Released under an Attribution-ShareAlike License