With the change of command ceremony on Saturday, our time on the ISS [International Space Station] has really come to an end and our focus is on descent. Last time, I landed in the summer in the desert of California in a space shuttle. This time, it will be winter on the steppes of Kazakhstan in a gumdrop shaped capsule! I have a feeling I already know which one will be bumpier… [Sunita Williams - NASA Astronaut]
I use the above quote from NASA Astronaut Suni Williams as an example of retiring technologies without an improved successor. In 2009 the USA had a fleet of three space shuttles which were able to transport a crew into space and to the International Space Station (ISS). Now the US have no means of doing so and have to rely on private companies and Russia. NASA was the primary transporter for the International Space Station and did wonderful things with their space programme. Sadly this looks to be stalling. They retired a technology and had no replacement.
Russian Soyuz capsules are now used as the primary transporter for manned expeditions to the ISS. They lack the crucial functionality of being able to repair the space station [Image Reuters]
Over the years I have come across various technologies which have being retired without a replacement. Google Reader being the most recent example. The reason given is that Google are looking to pour their energy into fewer products. I rather naively thought that Google Reader was well used because it has been so valuable to me. It wouldn’t be possible for me to follow all of the websites I want to read and sync them across devices without Google Reader. I don’t believe RSS is dead and I don’t believe Twitter is a viable replacement – there is too much information on there to keep track of it and ultimately a lot of it will be lost in cyberspace. Thankfully other solutions have emerged including Fever, which I have installed on my own webspace so I don’t have to worry about the service being discontinued.
Sometimes, no other alternatives appear. I am a big user of Microsoft Photodraw 2000. It is so simplistic and let’s me produce quality graphics very quickly. I use it for all of my print and web work – both professionally and personally. Microsoft retired this software in 2001 and I have yet to find a replacement that matches its simplicity and versatility. As a result, I have to boot into Windows on my Mac and use a twelve-year outdated piece of software to do my graphics work because I don’t believe in replacing technologies when they work well.
Apple are taking a different approach with my first-gen iPad and are forcing me to retire the technology by discontinuing support for it and not providing any updates. As a result I am using iOS5 which means some of the functionality I would like is missing and apps are slowly becoming unsupported. It’s slower than I remember it ever being. As a result I’m probably going to have to upgrade to a newer model in 2013/14. That’s a whole different thread of consumerist thinking.
I do wonder which seemingly popular technology will be retired or swallowed up next?
A couple of months ago I wrote about introducing Badges for Learning onto my class blog to link specifically to my classroom management system both in the online and offline world. I had initially encountered badges from the likes of Foursquare and GetGlue where ‘checking in’ to locations and films allowed me to earn badges/stickers.
Foursquare badges and GetGlue stickers initially sowed the seed of how digital rewards may be used in my classroom. It wasn’t until I encountered Doug Belshaw’s tweets and blog posts about #openbadges that I began to think in a more concrete way about how such an idea could be embedded in my classroom.
I’ve read with interest the work of Julia Davies who has talked a lot about the way blogs create a virtual territory which, although delineated, can blur boundaries for when the space begins and ends (Davies, 2006). Her work into Teen Wiccan sub-cultures through blogging is fascinating stuff – as is a lot of the ethnographic research included in this book. Julia’s work constantly sees blogs as online digital ‘cubby holes’ - also linking to Wenger’s notion of Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998). She argues that blogs can disrupt the binaries of online and offline worlds (Davies, 2006: 60) which is exactly the concept I am trying to develop with Badges for Learning.
In a general sense I want our class blog to become the digital ‘cubby hole’ for online activities linked to our school work – children can access all of our internet services through the blog using unified log-ins and passwords. I also want Badges for Learning to transcend both online and offline spaces – blurring the boundaries and rewarding skills, activities and achievements in both online and offline spaces. Initial response has been excellent.
When I wrote my last blog post we had five available badges – we now have fifteen. Five of these badges have been created by the children in my class – both the design and awarding criteria.
For further explanation of the low-tech way I set up the badge packs then see my previous post about badges. I still use exactly the same method. We now also have an Apply for a Badge page using the Support Tickets WordPress plug-in as badges cannot automatically be unlocked and it’s impossible for me to keep track of who needs which badge.
In short, Badges for Learning works very well. I would really like a WordPress plug-in that could automatically issue badges linked to post counts etc but I am happy for the badges to be linked to skills rather than something quantitative. Letting the children design badges and awarding criteria also gives them ownership of the programme too. This is a very powerful model I am very keen to develop.
My next line of enquiry with Badges for Learning is to create a new set of badges that link specifically to new media literacy competencies such as the work of Jenkins (or perhaps Mozilla Web Literacies). I will be sure to blog about this when it happens. In the meantime I’m really keen to hear your thoughts on Badges for Learning/Open Badges and also any ways in which you have embedded badges into your classroom or setting.
Davies, J. (2006). Escaping to the Borderlands: An Exploration of the Internet as Cultural Space for Teengage Wiccan Girls. In K. Pahl, & J. Rowsell, (Eds.), Travel Notes from the New Literacy Studies: Instances of Practice. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice, Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
I have a great deal of respect for Simon Finch (also known as @simfin on Twitter). He speaks very wisely about teachers and children using social media – backed up with evidence and sound advice. It’s no wonder he has been short-listed for a Naace Impact Award.
I was honoured to find that Simon had included some of my work in his BETT presentation about social media in education. Initially the @ClassroomTweets (Using Twitter in the Primary Classroom) project and then our recent work linked to Barbara Morgan and NASA. Some of the highlights I picked out:
“In the olden days we would celebrate that [sharing writing] by putting it on the wall. When the internet came it went on the school website or the school newsletter and you would publish it there for the parents to see and the wider community to see. By using social media that audience becomes, not just a local, regional, but a national and international but also you’re able to leave comments and receive feedback.”
“Back in the day, we used to have to lie to kids that we had a letter from NASA; here we have real ones to bring space and NASA into the classroom, is absolutely fantastic.”
“Social media are a fantastic opportunity and we need to embrace that opportunity and get the rest of the world to understand that there can be valid activity when a teacher uses Twitter or a blog – it’s not a waste of time. But within that we need to post like our enemies are watching – who is managing your identity? If you’re not managing your identity then, collectively, other people are. And then the final message is… nothing is private.”
I’ve had a great time engaging in blogging for audience and purpose with my class over the past term and a half. Not least, our communication with NASA Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan last month.
Blogging has proven itself to really bring the world into my classroom and allow the children to engage in meaningful dialogue with an audience that is not necessarily anonymous. Julia Davies (2006: 60) wrote that blogging allows users to share their voice with a dynamic and global audience as well as engaging in powerful writing, which is partly driven by the potency from the immediacy of publication. Boyd (2007) has argued that users in blogging spaces are not fully aware of who their audience actually is. This is true in a sense but in my previous work (Waller, 2011: 101) I argue that although such an audience is ambiguous, it still exists and that children’s writing is subconsciously driven by this imagined audience. It is the imagined audience that is so powerful when blogging. The audience exists and it spans across continents and cultures but it is never truly known. My class enjoy checking the ‘Flag Counter’ on our blog but this didn’t necessarily allow them to understand the true reach of their work. No amount of tracking plug-ins or analytics can tell you the true extent of the audience of a blog. It takes instances like the communication with Barbara Morgan to truly extend their imagined audience. They now have a greater understanding of their audience and the fact that it extends outside of their local area. They also blog about what they think their imagined audience wants to know about – most recently space!
My class regularly engage with their imagined audience, asking questions in blog posts and requesting information. To them the audience is real. Blogging also allows the children to experience the power of written texts through thickening of online ties in the offline world. The letter from Barbara Morgan was much more powerful than a comment – to my class it made part of their imagined audience real. But the global nature of blogging meant that this sort of communication could happen. Developing traditional ‘old’ writing through the ‘new’ is certainly not a new concept but one that is forgotten at times. Blogging does not destroy traditional writing. It enhances it and it extends it. It makes it relevant and it gives it purpose. Next time someone says that technology is destroying writing, remember this:
The effects of technologies are never intrinsic to a particular media, but are always mediated by the uses to which technologies are put and the contexts in which they are used. (Luke, 2000: 74).
How will you use technologies like blogging?
I write more about this area in an upcoming book chapter (due mid-2013):
Unsworth, L. and Thomas, A. (Eds.) (in preparation). English Teaching and New Literacies Pedagogy: Interpreting and authoring digital multimedia in the classroom. Peter Lang: New York.
boyd, d. (2007). Social Network Sites: Public, Private or What? Knowledge Tree, 13. Retrieved from: http://www.danah.org/papers/KnowledgeTree.pdf.
Davies, J. (2006). Escaping to the Borderlands: An Exploration of the Internet as Cultural Space for Teengage Wiccan Girls. In K. Pahl, & J. Rowsell, (Eds.), Travel Notes from the New Literacy Studies: Instances of Practice. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Luke, C. (2000). Cyber-schooling and technological change: Multiliteracies for new times. In M. Kalantzis, & B. Cope, (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures (pp. 69-91). London, England: Routledge.
Waller, M. (2011). ‘Everyone in the World Can See It’ – Developing Pupil Voice through Online Social Networks. In G. Czerniawsku, & W. Kidd, (Eds), The Student Voice Handbook: Bridging the Academic/Practitioner Divide. London, England: Emerald.
I write this on a day that is poignant – January 28th – 27 years after the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster. At this time every year I remember the crew who lost their lives on that day including Christa McAuliffe – the first teacher in space. Christa was a credit to the teaching profession and wisely said:
I touch the future… I teach.
She was always a teacher, never an astronaut, and intended to go back into the classroom as soon as the mission was over because as she put it, “Otherwise, what would be the point?” Everything she did was for the children. She wanted to inspire pupils and teachers across the world to learn more about space. Christa was selected to go into space as part of the ‘Teacher in Space’ program run by NASA and the US Government in the 1980s to send “one of the nation’s finest, a teacher, into space” (would we hear teachers being described like this in 2013?). A teacher called Barbara Morgan was also selected as Christa’s ‘back-up’ and went through training at NASA alongside Christa and the crew. On January 28th 1986 the world watched in horror as 73 seconds after blast-off Challenger exploded, killing all seven astronauts. Barbara Morgan still believed in the importance of education and the ‘Teacher in Space’ programme and worked tirelessly to promote the important work. As she put it:
Education and exploration are really very much the same. It’s all about discovering, it’s all about experimenting, and it’s all about taking what you discover and what you experiment with, and what you learn, and sharing that with others.
When I started teaching Year 5 I wanted to extend our ‘Earth and Moon’ science unit to look at space exploration and in particular a person who had been into space. To me the person in focus was obvious; I decided against Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gagarin and opted for Barbara Morgan, here’s why:
(This should play a short section of the above YouTube video – it was the best I could find)
Barbara Morgan is one of the most inspirational teachers I have come across. Not because she has been into space, but because she passionately believes in education. After Challenger, she continued her work with NASA to promote education, while returning to the classroom. In 1998 she became an ‘Educator Astronaut’ and in 2007, twenty-two years after she was selected as a ‘Teacher in Space’, she flew a space shuttle mission to the International Space Station and streamed lessons live into classrooms across the USA. When asked about her wait to go into space she replied:
It’s been long, but it’s not been a wait. It’s been long work, and a good work. Most things in life don’t come easy. Most things in life take a lot of effort, and take some patience and some perseverance. And as classroom teachers, that’s what defines classroom teachers, that’s why classroom teachers can do their jobs so well. You don’t get instant gratification in the classroom.
A lot of people talk about teaching being instantly rewarding – small day-to-day things in the classroom do make you smile. But you don’t get instant gratification because teaching does, indeed, take patience and perseverance; your heart has got to be in it. I love my job and I love it the most in the summer term. Not because it’s nearly time for summer break but because you have an amazing rapport with your class and you can see how far they have come. That certainly is not instant gratification.
I have known I wanted to be a teacher since I was aged 6. I was told to raise my aspirations and work in ‘computers’ because I was good at that. I could have earned more money doing that apparently. But I don’t do it for the money and that’s what non-teachers find hard to understand. Teaching is a calling. Even with the assessment regime, the administration and the jumping through hoops – that is not important – inspiring children and the future is what matters.
That’s why I wanted my class to learn about the work of Barbara Morgan. Because I wanted them to know that teachers do great things and that only a teacher would know how much receiving this would inspire a group of Year 5 children:
Thank you Barbara Morgan for being such an inspiration to me and my class. In a time where criticism is rife towards the teaching profession, it is important to remember just how incredible teachers are and how they do amazing things every day. I am proud to be a teacher and I will be a teacher for many years to come.
Placing a historic text at the centre of the curriculum through blogging…
I have always been fascinated by the story of ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ by Jules Verne as it was so ahead of its time. Members of an elite club building a projectile which will help them to travel to the moon – in the 19th Century.
In Class 5, we have been learning about ‘Earth and beyond…’ in science and I have been thinking about ways in which I can use this text with my Year 5s. It was with great delight that I found out today that the book is in the public domain and can be reproduced online. I also like the idea of combining a historic piece of literature with a new literacy platform… blogging. I was originally going to link this through the class blog but instead have decided to create a separate blog. I’ve also renamed the Baltimore Gun Club to the Explorers Club to suit the age range of the class I teach.
The first blog post is the invitation at the start of the book given by Impey Barbicane which I think is an excellent stimulus for the start of the project. The children are now invited to discuss the invitation through the comments section. The actual address will be posted in a couple of days and the children can also create their own blog posts linked to our work across the curriculum, as well as their own independent learning linked to space.
I think it’s going to be an exciting ‘extra’ project that the children can take part in, which ties both traditional and new literacies together in an engaging way.
I would be thrilled to hear your thoughts about this project and how you think it could develop.
At the start of this academic year, we launched blogging across my whole school. We have a WordPress MU installation which is hosted by Creative Blogs and every class from Nursery to Year 6 has a blog. I’ve blogged with classes before and know the benefits first-hand. I’ve used it for two years whilst teaching in KS1 and I also wrote my MA thesis about the ways blogging promotes New Literacy Studies.
As I have moved to teaching upper KS2 (more on that in another blog post) I wanted to build on the previous work and embed the blog into the ethos of the classroom. I have also been looking for new ways to inspire and reward learning, so have been following the discussions on Twitter about Open Badges. I have always liked the idea of badges (after using Foursquare and GetGlue) and have mulled over the idea of how Open Badges might look in my classroom. All of my thinking led me to ways it can be embedded in the blog (online) and in the classroom (offline).
I discussed this with my class, who were very keen for it to happen. In fact, I have had a few reminders from them about setting it up. So, this evening I have managed to set up an initial version of Badges for Learning which will launch officially with my class on Monday. We have launched with five basic badges (three linked to online blogging activity and one linked to offline activity in the classroom). Each child has their own profile page (a static wordpress page) which includes their badges, recent posts (using a wordpress plug-in) and moderated comments. They cannot edit their profile and only I can issue badges at the moment (although that may change). I’m not using a plug-in to issue badges. I simply add the image file from the media browser and link it to the blog description on the badges page (using anchor tags). I also post the badge images in the comments section of relevant blog posts using a plug-in which allows this. I’m not using the Mozilla Badge Backpack (yet) as I am not sure how I can work that in terms of embedding and issuing badges to multiple user profiles within a WordPress installation (and have badges display on individual profile pages). But I do think this is a good first step.
I plan on adding a range of badges linked to skills across the school curriculum, digital literacies (potentially based on something like Jenkins competencies) and offline achievement. I’m also going to have hidden badges which can be unlocked by taking part in events such as educational visits.
I would be interested to hear your views about this. I’m also keen to hear about ways in which other people have used badges in their classroom.
New horizons, back to blogging and clutter…
You may have noticed that my blogging and social media activity has been sporadic, at best, over the past year. This is because, after submitting my MA thesis, I decided that I wanted to spend a year focusing entirely on teaching and learning with my Year 2 class. I have also learnt the value of downtime and the need to reduce clutter both – physical and metaphorical.
It is with this impetus that I realised a large proportion of my online activities and networks were cluttered too. I seemed to be using a couple of primary services (Twitter and Facebook) and then many other online spaces which were all under-used. I had multiple Posterous accounts, Tumblr, Project365 blogs, photoblogs and various online profiles. They were all, quite simply, adding to the clutter. After reading up about ‘Project Reclaim’ I also realised that I didn’t own a lot of my data. It was with this that I decided to consolidate all of my online spaces. I had used WordPress Multi-site before and thought this would be the best option. I had grown tired up updating multiple WordPress installations and having things spread across different MySQL databases and in different directories. Ideally I wanted a network that couple include all of my spaces and still offer the functionality I needed.
As I have always used my (ex) MobileMe email address I thought it would be useful to have an address that linked to this so I registered martinwaller.me. I then installed WordPress MU with ease and opted to go with the directory rather than sub-domain option (as my hosting provider at the time wouldn’t allow me to set up ‘wildcards’ on domains). I then used the Posterous Importer plug-in to import my existing posts and images into my new sites. The main domain also has a landing page (which I intend to change and update eventually).
Everything worked perfectly apart from the fact that this blog (changinghorizons.net) was still externally hosted and was suffering performance issues. I could have renamed the blog martinwaller.me/blog and just redirected this URL but after 3 and a half years I have grown to like the ‘brand’ (for want of a better word) of this site.
I discovered that domain mapping was an option with WordPress MU and that seperate domains could be mapped to secondary blogs. I managed to extract the posts, pages, links and some of the settings from the MySQL database and import them into the MU MySQL database at martinwaller.me/changinghorizons by slightly editing some of the code. This all seemed to work well until the problem. Wildcards or ‘Parked Domain’ functionality was needed and my hosting provider could not accommodate this.
New Hosting Provider
I had become disillusioned with my hosting provider – I felt they were overcharging me for the service and the fact that they wouldn’t accommodate my requests meant I decided to change to a different provider who offered CPanel functionality.
The transfer of both domains and webspace has now been completed and setting up the domain mapping functionality was a breeze. This blog now functions as a secondary blog within martinwaller.me but still retains its old URL and identity. There are still a few issues for me to address but I have also taken this as an opportunity to remove a large amount of plug-ins which were unused and slowing the site down.
Please let me know if you come across any issues with the site. The downloads/documents seem to be offline but I am working on fixing that. Apart from that my web presence seems to becoming less cluttered by the day!
The photograph was taken by me a couple of weeks ago at the Durham coast. I’m taking up photography as a hobby!
It’s been a while since I blogged, for various reasons, but I feel like this is a good time to write a new post. After five years of working in the wonderful Orange Class I have now moved out of the classroom and will be teaching Year 5 in September. This is a very surreal experience for me as the classroom has been such a huge part of my life and career. I have tried to develop a curriculum that is rich, diverse and stimulating and takes account of multiliteracies, critical literacy and new literacies, while still teaching the National Curriculum. I have also tried to create a stimulating learning environment. I believe that a classroom should be a haven for both staff and pupils – a place that stimulates creativity and offers a safe place for learning. Over the past five years I have tried to develop different areas of my classroom that stimulate real creative learning.
The picture above, for example, is the cloak room which I turned into a ‘Theatre of Dreams’ to link with our topic of Dreams. The children performed drama work in this area. We also made a talking Magic Mirror (from ‘Snow White’) which lit up and spoke dialogue from the story. I have created other areas over the years too – creativity areas to support animation work, blogging benches with computers and a dinosaur dig-site to link with our Dinosaur unit of work.
I always try to promote reading for pleasure and I think a class library is essential for this. I therefore decided to create a separate area in my classroom and purchased some cheap wood effect flooring from eBay to create a defined area. I also created a comic bank as well as a setting up an old TV for multimodal stories and films. The was also a dressing up box in the corner too so children could act out the stories they read.
I always tried to make interesting displays with the children. This part of a display about the Great Fire of London before it was taken down and renewed. The children painted the background and created the 3D houses to recreate Pudding Lane. I always tried to keep the classroom bright and welcoming. But after dismantling it over the past two weeks I feel like it has really lost its soul…
I taught my first ever lesson as an NQT on that carpet and I have focused all of my research within the walls of this classroom. @ClassroomTweets was born here along with all of the projects I have planned and developed with my classes. I wrote my first article about my work in this classroom and my MA thesis was written using data I collected there. It’s such a strange feeling to be leaving as it’s been a real haven for me over the past few years. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with the same team, who have become like a second family to me – thank you to Kelly, Elaine and Sylvia for five wonderful years and for all of the children who have been in Orange Class. I am excited about the next challenge in Year 5 but I will never forget my time in Orange Class… it has been great.
By glancing at some of my previous blog posts I think it is hard to glean the fact that I am actually an Early Years/KS1 educator who has been teaching Year 2 for nearly five years. A lot of my blog posts have reflected theory and practice in terms of ‘education’ and not ‘classroom.’ My last blog post suggested I was going to change this and aim to have a mix of theory, practice and classroom ideas. This blog post is primarily about classroom ideas and integrating popular culture into the overarching theme of a classroom. This is primarily drawn from work by Elaine Millard and Anne Haas Dyson who have written extensively about popular culture (and the lack of it) in many education systems. More recently I have been drawing ideas from the work of the amazing Jackie Marsh who I saw speak about playful pedagogies and popular culture at the UKLA Conference in Chester.
Popular Culture is something I have always wanted to integrate into my classroom. I have approached this in various ways during my time in the classroom. Primarily I focused on deep integration of popular culture through themes and digital technologies in projects. I have also tied together units of work under the banner of topics. I will write about these over the coming months but I want to write today about another way I spread themes of popular culture across the whole year. This approach is probably more relevant to Early Years and Key Stage 1 classrooms but can be adapted to Key Stage 2 classrooms too.
During my visit to a Disney theme park in 2010 I realised that every time I had visited a Disney Park there was some sort of year-long ‘celebration’ happening. I realised that in the current state of education we don’t celebrate a great deal (well I always had within my classroom) so thought about developing this idea. Last year I developed a ‘Dream’s context where the children celebrated their dreams for the future, this linked primarily with a project we were involved in linked to Enterprise and living healthy and productive lifestyles. We transformed our messy cloakroom into a ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and linked other areas of curricula subjects to dreams:
- Dreams of the Future – Linked to enterprise and how to realise your dreams for the future
- Dreams of Imagination – Linked to story writing and using our imaginations
- Dreams of Christmas – Seasonal obviously but linked to the creation of our school production
- Dreams of Power – Linked specifically to exploring characterisation of villains in literature
- Dreams Together – Exploring PSHCE and working together
These are just a few of the areas we tied together. Of course if areas didn’t fit we didn’t link them and taught them separately but I did feel the overall theme made the children more excited about their learning. We were also able to learn a class tune for the theme. In this case Just Like We Dreamed It.
What will you celebrate?
This year I am developing a new thematic context linked to the events of 2012. As a school we are choosing to acknowledge the Golden Jubilee and London 2012 Olympic Games which are huge causes for celebration. Of course there are so many other things we celebrate in Early Years Classrooms – getting new pets, new siblings being born, losing a tooth, birthdays and many other things that really matter to young children. After seeing the clip below (again Disney Parks) I thought that the theme of ‘What will you celebrate?’ would be a good one to explore within my classroom.
I do like this idea as I think it really has mileage and will also inspire the children in my class. There is so much to celebrate, and I think we sometimes forget this at times. I will post more as I develop this theme!