On Monday our Link Learning ICTPD cluster had the privilege of having Ewan McIntosh spend the day with us. Ewan came to us directly from Scotland at the start of a whirlwind New Zealand tour. We had a great turnout with people coming from over the hill to Salisbury School in Richmond.
This was the first time I had organised such an event and it went fairly smoothly although we were unable to get internet access for Ewan for the first half of the day. We could either have a beautiful but small room with one ethernet cable or a larger spacious room with no access. For Ewan to be internet-less made it hard for him and hard for us.
The local newspaper turned up at lunchtime and interviewed Ewan. We set up a fake photo and I got my picture in the paper! They cropped me from the digital version of the interview- life’s like that!
I took copious notes from Ewan’s presentation but I thought I would compress them down a few critical points as take aways.
For me it came down to one word-
Ewan encouraged us to share our practice. We have an obligation to those not able to attend a day like this to share our practice- the good and the things that didn’t go so well.
I found that I related a lot to this part of Ewan’s talk. Having just landed this fabulous job as Link Learning ICT Facilitator I would never have been able to do this job effectively if I had not begun sharing my practice only five short years ago. There are lots of incredibly awesome teachers out there that only small groups of children and their parents know about.
If you share your teaching, your classroom, you do open yourself up for a whole new world of collaboration and learning. I have been asked to keynote a strand of the K12 On Line Conference later this year by making a video ‘A Week in My Classroom’. My first impulse was to compress a month’s worth of ICT into a ‘pretend’ week but on reflection I think I will make a more honest video- the trials, the successes, the challenges. We’ll see how it goes as I share it!
What are some of the things that are barriers to our sharing?
- Time is always a biggie and Ewan suggests we start a 100 hour challenge. Carve out an hour a day for the thing that we set our desires on doing and then do it for one hundred days. At the end of that time you can evaluate how well it went. You can’t say you gave your goals a decent shot at it unless you actually do it. Don’t expect perfection- be happy with ‘pretty good’. I recall an interview with Sir Peter Jackson when he said, “Films are never finished, they are only abandoned.” You can waste a lot of time trying to perfect projects- just do it!
- Lack of momentum– leverage your project- think of things that you can do to nurture your project- to make it more successful. Pitch it to others with a ‘hook’ of having something in it that they want or would find useful for them- personalise it. Get others to buy into it to make your project sustainable.
- Fear– fear of people knowing about your practice. I know that some people think the things that I blog share about are irrelevant but I get to moderate the feedback and the comments! In all my days of blogging and sharing I have never had to delete anything but spam in the way of feedback. People are either supportive, lurking or silent. In 2005 when I first started blogging I never really gave thought to the consequences- I just did it cos it seemed like an interesting thing to try. I wasn’t afraid because I didn’t know that anyone else would read or know what I was doing anyway. The benefits of sharing my practice has been HUGE. I now have a wide circle of supportive, helpful peers that I can learn from because we SHARE. These people are scattered around New Zealand and overseas- not necessarily in the classroom next door.
- Not having the gear– People who know me know I like the shiny toys as much as any Apple girl would but in my classroom I have a lot less gear than lots of others but I still do OK stuff. I have a data projector that sits on a disused fish aquarium stand and it shines onto an ordinary whiteboard with cords running across the floor to the wall socket. I have my TELA laptop, three netbooks and two old eMacs and a wireless internet connection that is sometimes dodgy in the way of kit. I supplement that an old handi-down digital camera from home and my iPod I got free with my home laptop. No Interactive whiteboard, no ceiling mounted data projector, no iPad, no Flip video, no Apple laptops, no computer suite! Fancy gear can help but is not a deal breaker. Last year we had one data projector to share among the whole school. I remember before we got that data projector we just gathered around the eMac!
So those are some of the things that can put people off sharing but the benefits can be enormous.
- If you share your practice with others, they will share right back at you. As an example some people get on Twitter, follow a few people and immediately start asking for things because they have heard that Twitter can be really useful for finding out stuff, they then wonder why no-one replies and then say Twitter is just stupid. Firstly you need to connect with a circle of people who are interested in the same sorts of things as you. Then share some of your practice- build momentum for your project or idea.
- If you share you don’t have to do all the work yourself. For example – Delicious– You take a little bit of time to register, put a couple of bookmarklets in your toolbar, add me to your network, network with the teachers that I network with and save some fabulous resources into the cloud for you to access after you have handed back you TELA laptop. This whole task would take about ten minutes but you would then have access to a rich resource base on all things educational- far better than a random Google Search and all there at your fingertips no matter what computer you are using or where you are.
- Collaboration– if you are sharing with others you automatically open the door to others pitching in to build your project with you. As an example last term I set up a maths basic facts wiki so that parents could access our basic facts worksheets from home and help their children with learning and children could play on line games that supported them at their level. I then asked my Personal Learning Network to contribute more activities that they knew about. The resource is now considerably richer because of that collaboration.
Ewan shared a lot more throughout the day as well but these are the things that I particularly wanted to expand on in this blog post. We have an obligation to share our learning and our practice so that others who weren’t able to take a day from their classrooms can learn too.
There were eighty people at Ewan’s day in Nelson. So people what are you going to share?
My more detailed notes from the day can be found in download form here.