A Final Farewell

Well, this is it – my final post on my edublogs blog!

From now on, you can find me ….

HERE

I’m really excited about my new self-hosting venture, though 🙂 When I first managed to set it up, someone (sorry, can’t remember who?) on my twitter ‘network’ urged me to enjoy the new found freedom. I’m looking forward to the opportunities that self-hosting will bring – thank you to mrmckenzie for helping to make the transition almost pain-free 😉

I’ve plans to make a basic step by step guide of how I managed to make the ‘quantum leap’ and hope to post this on my new blog soon. Maybe others will read it and decide that it’s time for them to become more independent, too.

I’ve been liaising with a local school for deaf children because the teachers there wanted to set up class blogs. They had read some information I had posted on the L.A. website, and were eager to make use of the splendid edublogs resource I’ve been promoting. All the training notes and slideshows are on the website and when I visited the school today, the staff were keen to show me that they’d already made a start at setting up a class blog.

Have a look 😉

I didn’t have the heart to tell them what edublogs new policy is with regards to advertisements on their free educational blogs, and that …… ‘at the end of the day, they’re there to persuade you to become a supporter’. I feel that I’ve unintentionally misled them by telling them that edublogs was a safe, free site for educational bloggers.

It was the promise of a ‘free‘, ‘safe‘ and ‘educational‘ site that originally led me to choose edublogs for my own class blog. Thank goodness I can add wproom2’s blog to this site and keep it ad free while I prepare an action plan for other L.A. class blogs.

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I actually feel more sad than angry  now 🙁

Seven Things Before I Go!

A few weeks ago, I was ‘tagged’ by Stuart Meldrum. I only discovered this recently and was so busy trying to find a solution to the Edublogs’ ads crisis, that I never got around to responding to the meme challenge.

So this is going to be my last task on this Edublogs blog, before I move on to bigger and better things 🙂

This is my first meme …. so here goes!

Seven Things You Didn’t (or might not!) Know About Me

1. I went straight from school to Teacher Training College (Notre Dame, in Glasgow). It was a three year course back then – but I only lasted a year. It was always expected that all four girls in the family would go into teaching, so I followed in my older sisters’ footsteps. I was just not ready for it, though, and couldn’t wait to leave and be part of the ‘real world’. My eldest sister declared recently that if I’d gone into teaching way back then, I’d probably be ‘burnt out’ by now 🙂

2. I worked in Insurance for a while, and the in the Civil Service. When number 1 son was just three months old, Jack was offered a job in Sun Chemicals in Cincinnati, Ohio. We lived there for 5 years. Number 2 son was born there …. and number 3 son was conceived there, but born in Glasgow soon after our return. Just this weekend, we found a magnificent view of our house there at 1461 Hoffner Street in Google Streetmaps …. awesome! Click on the link below to take you there 🙂

 View Larger Map

3. We returned to Glasgow in the early 1980’s, and found it a very different place to the one we had left 5 years earlier. There were no jobs to be had, and Jack was unemployed for 23 months. Pretty bleak times, but the three wee yins kept us very busy – and at least they had a full time mum and dad for round the clock attention. Thank goodness for ICI in Grangemouth! Jack was offered a post of a research chemist and we all relocated to Falkirk.

5. I’d been regretting not having completed my Teacher training course, and enrolled in the local High School so that I could obtain the necessary third higher and the o’level maths (I only had arithmetic and statistics – remember them??) required for ‘mature student’ entry in to Moray House. It was at the time when schools were encouraging adult learners to come along and join in day to day lessons with the pupils. It took a wee bit of persuasion, but eventually I was allowed to join in the Higher Geography and Standard grade maths classes (my two least favourite subjects at school – must have been trying to prove something to myself!). There were one or two other adults attending the school, but I think I was the only one who chose courses leading to an academic qualification. I passed the maths – can’t remember my grade, and managed to get an A in Higher Goegraphy. I worked very, very hard to get that level 🙂

6. I was really grateful for the second chance at Teacher Training. I was the typical mature student – never missed a class and strived to get top marks for every assignment. I was gutted when I graduated 4 years later (1994) and discovered there were no jobs (I know how today’s graduates feel!). I managed to get 2 ‘year long’ supply positions before landing a permanent job at Carronshore P.S. I was ecstatic when I got the phone call to say I’d got the job – so much so, that I woke up the next day and was afraid to mention it to anyone in case I’d dreamt it.

7. I loved every minute of my first few years of teaching. Gradually, though, I started to become a bit disillusioned with the need for all the rigid planning. I started to ‘cheat’! What I wrote in my weekly forward plan sheet usually never happened because I’d entered my ‘middle of the night rambling’ phase. I used to keep scraps of paper beside the bed at night so that I could jot down ideas for the next day’s lessons. When I got to school, I’d gather the children round and tell them what I had planned for the day, and asked them what they thought. I think they looked forward to it all, because they ended up saying to me, ‘Well, what were your ‘middle of the night ramblings’ last night, Mrs V?” I even received a beautiful notebook as a Christmas present from Anna – loved the inscription:-)

      

 I haven’t ‘tagged’ anyone else because I’m not sure how to find out who has/hasn’t been tagged. Please leave a comment with a suggested list of suitable candidates 😉

Enough is Enough!

 This is one of our class blogs where ads have been appearing recently.

The class teacher contacted me for advice and I suggested that the school could sign up to be an edublogs supporter and then there would be no more ads appearing on their site. I also pointed out that if any other teachers were keen to set up a class blog, then their blogs could be included in the school’s ‘ad free’ package.

The school is happy to do that and the problem will be resolved soon.

Sometimes these ads are harmeless enough, but when I clicked on their blog earlier this evening, this is what I saw (these children are 6 years old!).

 

 

I focussed on the add links on the left hand side menu. When I clicked on the last link, it took me to this page:

 

 

 

Hence the post title …. enough is enough. My instincts tell me that it just isn’t right and that this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening on an ‘edu’ blog.

I wonder what others think?

 

 

Blogging Turmoil

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about the ‘ups and downs’ of blogging. I should probably have put the Downs and Ups in the title section of this post, as the period in question began with the Downs!

The DOWNS

This was due to some frustrations with edublogs. Things were extremely slow for a while, and this was very frustrating when trying to post about Kim and Gail’s visit. I also worried about all the teachers I’ve been helping recently to set up class blogs. I imagined their frustration at not being able to access edublogs so soon after being ‘converted’!

To top it all, some teachers who had set up class blogs, have begun noticing adverts appearing on their posts. One Headteacher also telephoned to say that a parent had complained about an advert on the Primary 2 class blog that he thought was particularly inappropriate for young children.

The only way to stop the ads is to become an edublogs supporter. This costs around £30 a year. This also allows you to disable ads on up to 30 other blogs (a class set?), although the extra blogs wouldn’t have any of the other supporter benefits – such as extra storage space or access to plugins.

Initially, this seemed like a good solution to the ads problem on pupils individual blogs. After some deliberation, however, I recalled the situation that arose last session when my class used learnerblogs, and the problems that arose then when ads began appearing on their posts.

 At the time, I wrote:

Last weekend, I made the decision to move the class individual blogs away from learnerblogs over to edublogs. Recently there was an announcement in the edublogs support blog to say there would no longer be an option to sign up for learnerblogs accounts, but that any existing ones would remain active.

It may have been a coincidence, but around about the same time, adverts began appearing all over the pupils’ learnerblogs and they started receiving some spam comments. Last Friday, however, a comment appeared on the main class blog from a pupil to say that a very inappropriate comment was awaiting moderation. Normally I would have moderated the comment first, but it must have appeared on her blog as she was logged in to update it.

The conversations on the main class blog as she tried to seek advice can be viewed here.

I made a decision to close down the pupil’s blog (at least I copied and pasted all her posts before taking the ‘one way trip’!). I also erased another pupil’s blog where there had been a previous spam comment noticed. It was a rushed decision and the next morning I decided to create new edublogs for the pupils.

Last Monday, we spent our computer time exporting all information from the learnerblogs accounts and importing it into the new edublogs accounts. It was a simple process and the children managed to do this themselves. They left a short goodbye message on their old blogs and provided a link to their new blogs.

Our next job is to activate the ‘Akismet’ spam key required to deal with spam comments. I’ve had this installed in the class blog and have had over 1000 comments deleted as spam……. and I still need to replace links on the class blog.

I deliberately used bold for the last paragraph, because I believe now that the ‘Akismet’ spam key is necessary for pupil blogs so that there is a safeguard in place to help prevent the experience described here from re-occurring. Unfortunately, because the pupil blogs have no access to the Akismet spam plugin, that precautionary measure cannot be taken.

I’m now of the opinion that recommending edublogs for pupils is not feasible and I need to try to quickly find an alternative solution. Every day more and more teachers are asking for advice – and I’m suddenly confused about what that advice should be 🙁

 

The UPS

I came across this 5th graders blog recently (just surfing!) and on it I found this wonderful summary of what blogging meant to Eddie at the time.

 

 

 The image really cheered me up and I decided to keep on looking for safer ways for pupils to blog.

I was also delighted that Maryam ,who has now moved on to High School, is still reading the Carronshore Blog and took the time to comment on Mrs P’s recent visit to Carronshore Primary School. (last years P7 can’t access their own blogs any more because of an issue with having to renew edublogs passwords a while ago …. but that’s another story!).

Maryam wrote:

Hello Primary 5!
It’s me Maryam! Sorry i haven’t wrote in ages, just been sooooo busy!
I have been looking at all the latest updates of your blog and i was really shocked at this video! When i was in primary 7 (last year) we talked to all stars and Mrs P and Mrs D from the AllStars! Lucky you guys for meeting them!
Anyway, I know it is a little bit late but..
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
HeHe, i would have said it earlier but i have been quite busy. School is really good! Except my English teacher has left with was really sad, but now we have 3 English teachers which is very confusing.. very.
I have been getting quite alot of tests at school on sciences and i am really enjoying all of them and i cannot wait till i go on holiday to Pakistan on the 4th of February, i haven’t seen my mum’s side of the family for 4 years! I can’t wait!
I will write back soon.
Maryam

The final ‘UP‘ happened last night on twitter when Andrew and Sinclair offered some great advice …. and I’ll be taking up the offer of further help from both Sinclair and David who say they’re willing to answer more questions I have about finding solutions to our Blogging problems. I’m very grateful that they’re willing to share their experise …. I need all the help I can get 🙂

 

Kim and Gail’s Visit to Falkirk

Kim and Gail captivated the children in Easter Carmuirs and Carronshore on Friday. They were bombarded with questions about life in Australia …. and what impressions they had about life in Scotland!

In the morning, they visited Carronshore and were treated to some Fischy Music

Back in class, the children interviewed Kim and Gail. I learned loads by listening to the responses to their great questions!

Before they left, Kim presented the class with two new pets! The platypus and koala bear will be well looked after, I’m sure! 

 

 

After lunch, we headed off to Easter Carmuirs so that Kim and Gail could meet Mr O and some of the children they’ve met ‘virtually’ over the past 2 years. Again, the Primary 7 pupils had some great questions for them. Two guides then showed us round the school. We returned to the class and chatted with the children while they used technology during their Friday afternoon Golden Time slot. Kim and Richard also had a further opportunity to chat about possible future virtual ventures together.

Kim and Gail both commented on how impressed they were with these Primary 7 pupils.

 

 

Part 2 – Visiting E. Lothian

 

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Yesterday Kim, Gail and I drove out to East Lothian to visit Musselburgh Grammar School and Wallyford Primary School. The day was organised by Ollie Bray, a Depute Head at MGS.

Our first port of call was Wallyford. We visited a primary 7 class where the children were engrossed in their Nintendo DS as they worked to improve their brain age! I was really impressed by how absorbed the children were in the activity. There was a great question and answer session afterwards. I learned that:

  • the children love it, but half an hour of such intense concentration is enough for them
  • they sometimes forget that they are even in class because it’s the type of activity they would normally take part in outside of school (the atmosphere was very informal – some children sat in small groups on large cushions on the floor)
  • they often used this as a ‘settling down’ activity right after lunch
  • the 20 to 30 minute activity was counted as part of their mental maths for that day
  • some found it frustrating that the voice recognition didn’t recognise their accent (the Australian visitors agreed – the word ‘yellow’ caused them the most problems!)
  • Some of them liked the fact they could compete against their classmates – others preferred to work hard to improve their own scores
  • age 20 is the optimal brain age (I tried it later and scored 80 …. I’m blaming the voice recognition tool!!)

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The children packed up the equipment and we were escorted downstairs to the primary 3 class. These children played the ‘Drawn to Life’ game. The purpose is to create and customise heroes, weapons, vehicles, animals and more. The children then play with their creations and watch them come to life. Once again, these children were totally absorbed in the activity. Ms Betteridge had made worksheets to go along with the game and the children then used the experience to help with imaginative writing. The primary 3 pupils confidently used expressions such as :

  • settings
  • characters
  • plot
  • props to help solve problems

I overheard two pupils discussing the coins they had accumulated. They accurately read big numbers such as 7765, 9981, and even 7001. They were also able to easily put these in order of smallest to biggest – very impressive 🙂

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Back at MGS we had the pleasure of talking to Jamie and Andrew, to 1st year pupils. They talked to us about The Guitar Hero project that they were involved in to aid the transition from Primary to Secondary school. I’ve read about it before on Ollie’s blog, but it was great to meet two of the children who took part and hear things from their perspective. I scribbled down some notes as we questioned them … again, I’ll use bullet points to give snippets of what they said (so, it’s not a chronological order of events!)

  • In primary 7 they formed small groups. The groups were chosen by the teacher because the pupils found it difficult to choose from a large friendship group
  • the rock bands planned a ‘Round the World Tour’
  • Activities spilled into various curricular areas. For example – In music, they practised ‘beats’. In English, they kept a ‘Rock Diary’. In Art they designed their own instruments and drew rock stars
  • Each of the feeder primary schools had one guitar and the groups took turn about to practise.
  • There were competitions at the weekly Golden Time slots (even the teachers joined in!)
  • Once in High School, everyone had a common issue that they could discuss with children they didn’t know
  • They were grouped again in High School with new people – again chosen by the teachers. Both boys thought that the project meant that people were less likely to be shy
  • New friendships struck up really easily because they all had a shared experince to discuss
  • In Craft Design and Technology class, the new groups designed postcards using graphics in Photoshop. These were then sent back to their P7 teachers (they couldn’t remember receiving a reply back?)
  • Although they felt very at ease socially with their new clasmates, the boys still felt a bit intimidated by the size of the new school

 I thoroughly enjoyed the day and need to say a big thank you to Ollie (I hope he doesn’t mind that I pinched the pics from his blog – trust me to forget the camera!).

Thanks also to the staff and pupils who made us all so welcome …. and lunch was great, too 🙂

A Two Part Post

Recently I blogged about my initial meeting with Kim and Gail (check out the responses from Cassie regarding their proposed visit to Carronshore! ) … and the comment response from John Connell was completely unexpected! 

I’m sure that the children from Easter Carmuirs are also looking forward to meeting the ‘virtual people’ face to face 😉

I’ve now joined Kim and Gail on 2 of their Scotland visits – and my head is still swimming! I’ll need to create a couple of posts to cover all we experienced.

This is post number 1.

Last night I returned from Edinburgh after meeting with Kim and Gail. They were meeting with Judy, Tessa, Keiron and Cathrin from Edinburgh who worked on a recent research study into how game making might improve literacy. 

On the train back home, I reflected on what I had learned from the experience. Thinking about it passed the time on the train (delayed lots because of something happening on the line )

Here’s what I believe are just some of the things I got out of the short meeting:

  • When I met with the others in Edinburgh this afternoon, it made me acutely aware of how small the world is! When they heard I was from Falkirk, Cathrin immediately responded that she works with Marilyn M and others from Falkirk on improving literacy (Bairns into Books) …. and Tessa and I were amazed to discover that our classes were blogging friends! 
  • We discussed loads of educational matters, too, and everyone had so much to contribute. Games based learning was discussed in detail, and Kim and Gail talked about their introduction to the potentials of using Moshi Monsters with classes.
  •  Maybe the main thing from last night’s meeting is that it was a ‘sharing of ideas’ experience. We all gained from each other, and can now pass the information on in our own areas to improve the learning experiences of the children in our care. 

I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend yesterday’s meeting.

Post Number 2

Today’s visit to Musselburgh Grammar School and Wallyford Primary was superb and there was so much to take in ….. I’m glad I took notes:-)

 Post 2 will follow very soon … but I’m not sure what else I can add to Ollie’s great description of the day 🙂