Who are you?

Task four of the teacher’s blogging challenge and one that I have a lot of connection with. Introducing the idea of avatars to my Grade 5/6 students last year was one of my highlights of the year. As I was getting to grips with the idea of being an ICT teacher, various conversations I had with my students made it obvious that most used different forms of online social networking. Disturbingly, most also used their own photos to identify their online profile. This conversation wasn’t just limited to Grade 5/6 students either, with the eye opening discovery that I had students as young as Grade 1 with facebook profiles, complete with smiling, happy pictures. Despite my growing acceptance of and immersion in social media, it still unsettles me to hear of 7 year olds posting their pictures for the world to see. For me, it’s not about whether or not that’s appropriate, it’s about them doing something without being able to fully weigh up any implications.

With all that in mind, I introduced the topic of avatars. It was interesting that, while the Grade 5/6 students all knew what they were, none of them had actually thought about how they could be used online. I showed them a few different avatar sites and we discussed why we might use them and also their representative nature. I knew that my boys would instantly put guns and other weapons in their avatar’s hands and that some girls would dress their avatar provocatively. It was an interesting discussion that ensued where I showed them some avatars and asked them to tell me about the person they thought made it. An avatar covered in tattoos was apparently ‘made by a biker, a really tough guy’ according to one Grade 5 boy. It raised two ideas – firstly, that even if the picture wasn’t of you, it still represented you and people could still form opinions and ideas about who you were through your avatar. Secondly, it reinforced the idea that, online, people can be anything and we need to constantly consider who we’re interacting with, regardlesss of what their photo or avatar looks like. What started as a simple lesson introduction turned into a lengthy and valuable discussion!

The outcome of all of this was that the students each created several avatars which could be used in varying contexts according to the image they wanted to portray. With older students/adults, I would talk about a consistent online presence but, at this level, I just wanted them to explore and experiment. I’ve put the links to those used below, some of which contained vaguely inappropriate additions to the avatars which provoked lots of giggles but further discussions. One student asked why didn’t I block the avatar with guns if I’d rather they didn’t use it? My reply was that I was trying to teach them skills that could be used beyond the four walls of the computer lab and, when they got home to play with it, they would find and need to deal with such things independently. But I’ll leave such decisions up to you – enjoy!

Bless this chick
Reasonably clever – lego avatars

The avatar created below is from a new website discovered yesterday through the fantastic PLN on Twitter (sorry, I can’t remember who it was so I can’t give them credit!) – www.grabbabeast.com

Before and after the spring clean

When I first looked at task 3 in the teacher blogging challenge I thought ‘I don’t need to do that’. I’m not a hugely experienced blogger but already had an ‘About me‘ page and didn’t really think much about it’s purpose. I’ll admit now, I was wrong. I’ve amended my profile page a little although it’s still lacking. It’s probably the hardest page to compile – you want to give the world information but not too much. I’ve relaxed my guard a little over the past year of teaching ICT as I’ve come to appreciate that information being in the public domain is really just a fact of 21st century life and something to be actively managed rather than something that should send you screaming into the hills. But secrecy is a hard habit to break and my paranoid tendencies still get in the way. So consider it a work in progress.

Also a work in progress is my ICT links page. I really just wanted to throw on a collection of things I use all the time. As a teacher of Grades Prep to 6, I need resources that are open ended, flexible, reliable and engaging and this page aims to bring together some of the things I’ve discovered (with a lot of help from colleagues on twitter!). It will be added to. Promise!

The final act of ‘cleaning’ that I did was to choose a new theme. It sounds a little vacuous to be worrying about how my blog’s ‘hair and makeup’ look but this is the professional image that I’m putting out there to the world and want it to look it’s best. I think I’m happy with this theme – not too fussy but with room to add personal touches and all the bits that I consider essential. Comments welcome!

What makes an effective blog post?

A task in the teacher blogging challenge asks bloggers to identify an effective blog post and think about the characteristics that make it so. I read a blog post a short while ago that I believe is effective, written by Sylvia Martinez about the tendency to blame new technology for a range of human shortcomings. In this case, it referred to an article which had appeared in the New York Times about children becoming distracted and unable to maintain focus thanks to their addiction to digital devices.

Why is this an effective blog post?

  • It’s well written. It sounds simple but a blog post is a public document wanting to attract readers and it needs to be written in an inviting and accessible way.
  • It stays on topic. Wandering blog posts which never really reach a point are great if you’re needing a good night’s sleep but aren’t good for much else.
  • It says something important. This is a bit of an open concept and is bound to be viewed differently by everyone. I find what Sylvia has to say in this post to be really important but, more importantly, so does Sylvia. If your blog post isn’t something you’re passionate about (or at least very interested in), don’t bother. Tell your cat instead.
  • It has a voice of it’s own. Sylvia brings together references and ideas that she’s encountered but adds in her own thoughts and insights. Blogs (usually) aren’t meant to be impartial and readers expect you to have an opinion. Even better if you make sure you can back it up.
  • It leaves you thinking. The really effective posts I’ve read stick in my head because they make me question myself, my beliefs or my practices. Giving a reader questions to ponder once they’ve digested your post is a good way to generate comment and discussion as well as giving your blog the potential to be an agent of change in others. Powerful stuff.
  • It’s short. If I have to scroll down too far, I give up. If I want depth, I’ll read a book. On that note, I’m off. Don’t want any of you falling asleep…..

Teacher blogging challenge – 10 questions for my blog

A quick, 10 question interview with my blog….

1. Tell us about yourself – who are you? Well, I’m a blog.  I’m just a bunch of words grouped into random thoughts, mostly about how education is enhanced with technology.

2. What inspired you to begin? I love sharing things – ideas, successes, less than successful attempts at things and also like having a record of my professional thoughts and happenings.

3. What inspires you most to write individual posts? Students.  When they do amazing things (ie, most of the time), my author can’t help but share that and the learning environment that helped it along.

4. What is hard about being a blog? Sometimes I feel a bit neglected. I don’t think my author does it intentionally, she just seems to get very caught up in other things and forgets to update me.  She says she has lots of ideas – I just wish she was better at getting them on screen.

5. What is your favourite moment so far? Announcing my top 10 for the year. My author was very proud of how far she had come during the year so that was a great post to publish. Receiving comments from others has been really rewarding too, especially from educators my author admires.

6. If you could be anything else in the cloud, what could you be? Difficult question! I think I’d like to be a wiki – all the input from other people would help me become more knowledgeable!

7. What are your goals for this year? I thought about running for Prime Minister but apparently blogs aren’t considered citizens in their own right.  Perhaps that could be the topic of a great new post?  I’d like to encourage my author to post more regularly.

8. What advice do you have for other blogs? Get out there and get yourself noticed!  Publish often on issues relevant to your topic and always network – I hang out with other blogs at parties all the time (and not just for the food).

9. What do you think the future holds?  Are there any bloggy developments on the horizon? I’d like to be a bit more rounded with resources and links to thinks relevant to educational technology.  I know my author has all sorts of different tools saved around the place but I’d like her to have the time/patience/focus to be able to bring it all together – that would be useful for her and others.

10. Anything else to add? Er, no.  Thanks.  It’s been fun!

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