Archive for the ‘Blogging about blogging’ Category

I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now and Tweeting for a little less time than that. When I first started blogging I really enjoyed writing about and reflecting on my teaching. Sometimes I shared links or websites that I’d found or talk about what I was reading on-line. Over time I found that what I enjoyed writing about most is what I do with my students in the classroom. I’ve developed new projects and written about the web 2.0 tools that we use to learn Latin, Roman culture, history, and mythology.

Over time I developed a PLN, a professional learning network, a group of educators and those interested in education from around the world. I learn from them and (I hope) they learn from me. I felt comfortable in the blogosphere and Twittosphere because these are open fora. I don’t personally attack or criticize anyone, but I do share my thoughts and occasionally frustrations in my blog and in my tweets. Teaching is sometimes difficult, frustrating work that can leave you feeling isolated and on your own. Through my PLN I have found support and answers to questions. I have also developed  some authority as an educator, based on my writings and perhaps my presentations at workshops like the Blue Ribbon Conference, MassCUE, or EduCon 2.2.

Over the past few months, however, my PLN has changed. This is a natural evolution, I suppose. And, after all, blogging and Twitter are public and open to anyone who cares to join the conversation. In the past, my followers were largely those who were interested in my take on the blending of Foreign Language, education, and technology. They were positive and involved. And they were mostly from far beyond my district and state. When people shared comments, they posted to my blog or responded to Twitter in the same open and public forum. What’s changed is that more people from my district and my school are following what I say. And recently the critiques aren’t appearing in the same venue where the conversations originated. I’ve heard references to my writing at the photocopier or in the faculty room. I’ve been confronted in the hall and criticized at school. To be honest, it has made me question why I blog and what I’ve written. And it has made me silent for the last few weeks.

But I have to come back to my original goal in writing:  this is a home for my reflections and thoughts on education and teaching in a public school. I will have positive things to share – and negative. But the conversation starts here. And I hope that I will start conversations and perhaps invite debate. I’m assuming there will be criticisms. And I hope those who wish to respond feel confident to join the conversation and participate in public debate.


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Last year I participated in a course called Expanding the Boundaries of Teaching and Learning as part of a district initiative to integrate technology into all of our classes. I was fortunate to be part of that first cohort. It truly has transformed my practice as an educator.  I was offered the opportunity to speak to cohort 2 and jumped at the chance to share an introduction to blogging for educators.  The file was written as a SMART Notebook 10 file, so if the links don’t work correctly or a background was lost in the conversion I apologize. Once I’ve had a chance to go back, I will make any updates that are necessary.  I tried to include complete URLs in order to facilitate the links. Occasionally this made the pages crowded, but I didn’t want the links to get lost when I posted the presentation here.

PDF File
Powerpoint File

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I read too many blogs. I admit that my Google Reader is overflowing. I almost never manage to keep up with everything! Sometimes I only have time to read what my friends are writing. Other times I just want to catch up on sites that offer suggestions and links. Other days I just look for something that will make me laugh. Occasionally I think about wiping the slate clean and starting over. If I ever do get around to cleaning out my reader, here are the 10 sites I definitely will keep around:

Free Technology for Teachers Richard Byrne posts regularly about tools that are useful for teachers. Every update includes “Applications for Education,” where he offers tips and ideas specifically for teachers. This is one of my favorite reference sites, as well. He has gathered an enormous collection of resources that are grouped by subject matter and can easily be searched.

Infinite Thinking Machine is written by a group of innovative educators  sharing ideas with educators. According to the blog, “our goal is simple: to show how today’s digital tools can impact student learning in meaningful ways. The ITM is about learning, thinking, communicating, and creativity – not technology.”

LatinTeach – This website is my go-to resource for all things related to Latin and Greek teaching and learning. If you aren’t a Latin teacher, you still might find ideas here. I include it here, though, to remind you to find a site that is all about what you do.   Don’t think that your subject area is not represented in the blogosphere. Chances are, someone is out there offering ideas and tips just for you and your subject area.

Open Culture – “The best free cultural & educational media on the web.” This is not only about education, but about culture in general. I feel smarter and better informed for reading this.

Practical Theory is written by Chris Lehmann, the principal of the Science Leadership Academy of  Philadelphia, PA.  SLA is an innovative high school opened in 2006 in partnership with The Franklin Institute.  Chris is an inspirational leader and a thoughtful educator. If SLA offered Latin, I’d consider moving to work there.

Teachers Love SMARTBoards has an enormous collection of SMART Board resources that are easily searched by subject area and by type of activity. What really has impacted my teaching, though, are the tutorials. These are really easy to follow and will show you how to improve and update your Notebook files to really make an impact in your classroom.

TeachPaperless – I originally followed Shelly because he’s a Latin teacher; now I read to understand what goes on in a paperless classroom. His students blog their tests, create comics of their translations (using Pixton), and create multimedia projects. He is outspoken on his ideas about education and the use of technology. He also reflects on his teaching and how it has changed. In particular, I’d recommend reading a recent post, Why Teachers Should Blog.

The Official Google Blog – To keep up with all things Google – Docs, Earth, Maps, Apps, Analytics, Search, et al.  This blog shares:  “Insight from Googlers into our products,  technology and the Google culture.”

The Power of Educational Technology – Liz Davis writes about using technology to teach students and teachers. She is active on Twitter and also participates and presents workshops at conferences on a number of tools.

Weblogg-ed is Will Richardson’s blog about blogging and education. His site is full of useful information, links, and ideas. He wrote the book about blogging, quite literally (Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts).

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Last year at this time I was just beginning my blogging adventure. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with a cohort of interested teachers in my district to learn about using technology to expand the boundaries of our classrooms.  Over the course of the year we read books, we took on-line courses, we collaborated and Skyped, we built networks of colleagues from around the world. Of all the activities that I found transformative, blogging by far was the most influential in changing the way I look at my role as an educator.

A year ago I started blogging while sitting on my mother-in-law’s porch looking out over Lake Winnipisaukee in New Hampshire (the image above is a photo I took last fall on a foggy morning from that porch). I sat at the picnic table and wrote about how amazing it was that I could be planning and thinking about my classes while relaxing 100 miles away from my classroom. Slowly I added more – pictures, links, tags, categories. I wrote essays for my course and reflected on my teaching and my life. For the first 6 weeks or so I didn’t really get it. I knew people read me blog, largely because the other members of my cohort were required to follow me. But isn’t the point of expanding the boundaries that I should find a way to have people beyond my school, beyond my district to connect with?

So I started reading more blogs with purpose. I commented on blogs written by educators who seemed thoughtful and innovative. I really looked at their blogs and thought about what tools I wanted to add to improve the look and usefulness of my blog. I thought about what I wanted my blog to be. I still don’t think I could articulate the purpose of my blog in one concise sentence (though it would be a great exercise).  Here’s a start:  I am a Latin teacher writing about using and teaching with technology in an American public high school. From that, I started to think about my audience. How could I find an audience of educators who might find what I have to say interesting?

I’d heard about Twitter for a while and just didn’t see the point. Who really cares what I’m doing? But so many of the blogs that I was reading had the “Follow me on Twitter” widget. There had to be something there. So I joined Twitter in November. I followed some educators. And by Christmas vacation I had really jumped in. I found links and ideas. I learned about the families and activities of educators from around the world. The blogs that I was reading were thoughtful and edited (mostly) and focused on education. But Twitter shared a snapshot, a single idea, a moment. It personalized my network for me. Twitter gave dimension to the people I was reading and following. So I started tweeting about my new blog posts. And I tweeted about Latin and found other Latin teachers. And soon I had readers from far beyond my district.

In the spring I decided to add a ClustrMap and really see how far my blog was traveling. I announced that on Twitter, too. And I shared it with my personal friends on Facebook (I keep Twitter for work, Facebook for family and friends). Within a few days I saw that I had readers from Europe, Australia, Canada, Israel. I got comments from people I didn’t know. And invitations to share my ideas in other places. If you click on my ClustrMap to the right, you’ll see where people have been reading my blog over the past few months.

Over time my little blog became a platform for me to share ideas and found things – not just with the 40 members of the first cohort of colleagues in my course, but with hundreds of educators from around the world. It helped give me purpose in my blogging. It gave me a sense of responsibility to my readers – that I was sharing ideas that would interest them, that I was linking to tools and sites that would be useful to them. I also began to understand my responsibility to the other bloggers I was reading. I might share a link that I find through someone else, but it is important to link to my sources and to write in my own way about these tools.

Latin teaching can be a lonely job. I’m lucky to work in a high school that has two (and in the past three) Latin teachers. But teaching – whether it is Latin or any other grade or subject – should not be confined to your classroom, to your building, or even to your district. I’ve built a network of smart, thoughtful, generous professionals from around the world in only one year. How far can you go in a year?

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Welcome, everyone, to my new blog home, Magistra’s Musings.  As some of you may be aware, November Learning has been the host of my blog since I started writing last fall. Now, due to changes at NL Communities, their free blogging platform will be taken down.  I am disappointed that the work that I have done this year will most likely not be able to be archived. However, I am excited to start writing again and sharing what I find and what I’m doing with my classes.  Using WordPress.com will allow me to be more creative with the format of my blog and will allow me to manage my site better. If you subscribed to my earlier blog, Magistra M’s Reflections, I will soon stop cross posting there; please join me here as I continue learning and sharing through blogging.

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