Blogging for your subject: tools of possibility

The meeting today at IAPS HQ brought together Subject Leaders and Advisors for our Association. Having such an engaged body of professional educators provides an excellent means of communication, support and advice for our schools. It ensures that there is a focus on professional refreshment and the sharing/gathering of up-to-date, subject-specific knowledge, skills and understanding.

A structure such as this can and will enable colleagues in a disparate range of schools to climb out of their silos; recognising that there is greater support for one’s own professional development in sharing and collaboration. The mechanism for this collaboration can be the use of social media tools, and blogging in particular. Following the example of Tim Pitman (@IAPSPHSE), other subject leaders will almost certainly follow after several positive discussions about the benefits of using social media in supporting colleagues.

So, to explain why the use of blogging and twitter in particular is of benefit in getting colleagues out of their silos, here is my pitch:

  • Blogging establishes a presence in an increasingly complex, and often confusing, information-rich environment.
  • A blog and twitter feed (and there are many other tools of possibility) enables you to curate, comment on, guide through and share a wealth of resources around your subject area.
  • As a subject leader or advisor, colleagues are looking for a “go to” person; someone whose views, opinions and (more importantly) sources they can trust.
  • Your subject needs and authentic voice. There is a lot of “white noise” across the Internet. Your blog and twitter feed will enable colleagues to tune this out and focus on the information that you are able to sift and filter on their behalf.
  • Finally, the blog (WordPress, Blogger, etc.) is your repository of knowledge and opinion. The Twitter feed will then enable you to keep an ear to the ground and share what you have created and curated.

There is much more detail, but a look at the surface may at least invite you to dip more than a toe into the water.

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Google Apps Training at St Joseph’s in the Park School

Zoe Ross » Blog Archive » Google Apps Training at St Joseph’s in the Park School.

We were delighted to have Zoe with us last Monday to take the staff team through the potential that exists in Google Apps.  By discussing the suite of tools as well as blogging and sharing photos, we recognised that all members of staff could make use of the tools in some way shape or form.

What impressed me most was the discussion it provoked over an number of issues; from the possible uses to the level of competency required.  We focus a great deal of our attention on developing our own intelligent behaviours and a growth mindset (thanks to Mr Costa, Ms Dweck, et al.) and the staff quickly came to understand where they were on the learning curve; some helping others, others getting on and tinkering and those who really felt lost courageous enough to say so and talk through their concerns.

Clearly, and with any team, what emerges from the start are the challenges.  And the solutions come in a range of forms.  There are those that will help themselves, those that will look to others for help, those, indeed, who will offer help and those who require something altogether different.  That is where our digital leaders will step in.

Over the course of the next few weeks we will enable groups of children to help some classes with their blogs.  Inspired by the Digital Leaders Network, we will have teams of children liaising with departments to put together blog posts and share their knowledge on how blogging works.  It is a very exciting opportunity for both staff and children and we hope will lead to creative and productive collaboration.

And a growth mindset.

The start of 2013

BBC News – China celebrates the start of 2013 Shanghai Style.

Curiously, we spent our New Year with friends who are in the process of returning from Shanghai.  The juxtaposition of the events in China with a little pub in Hertfordshire is amusing after watching this video.  It gives a little more colour to what I was intending to post on how 2012 shaped up.  The dawning realisation of the power of the Far East is starting to take hold and our western-centric attitude will have to change.  “Think Global. Act Local” has an even deeper meaning now.

I haven’t written “a year in review” before, but 2012 seems to have been particularly inspirational.  Here then, in no particular order (my memory does not permit accurate recall of dates – ask my wife) are some of the events and emerging opportunities that have enlightened and inspired.

Edmodo.  At School we have been incredibly impressed by both the engagement of the students in Junior 3 and 4 (Years 5 & 6) and the incredible learning opportunities that the VLE provides.  We have (that’s teachers and students) used it for sharing learning through assignments and file sharing.  And we have used it to create a “Global Classroom”, linking with schools in the USA and China (we would love to hear from anyone who would like to join in).  What has interested us is that using the tool naturally appeals to some more than others. Although our aim is to enable all our Junior children (and their parents) to become involved, redressing the balance is something that we will endeavour to do in 2013.  Perhaps the start will be with a small group of our children attending #DLmeet at BETT this year.

#SLTeachmeet.  The phenomenon of the teachmeet extended to the rarefied atmosphere of Senior Leadership on December 6th thanks to the great efforts of Ross (@TeacherToolkit) and Stephen (@mrlockyer).  This was an exciting gathering of a wide variety of individuals from state and independent sectors, those who work in schools and those who are consultants.  With the subtitle “Leave Your Ego At The Door”, it was clearly the shape of collaborations to come and the next iteration will be eagerly awaited.

Education for Social Responsibility (ESR) and the Sustainable Schools Alliance (SSA).  ESR is founded on a desire to ensure the Independent Schools’ sector takes Sustainability seriously.  IAPS is leading the way in developing ESR in how we prepare our children for the rapidly changing world that they will meet post formal education.  I have been given the role of Subject Advisor for ESR and together with other Heads we will be looking to understand better how we can embrace the shifting paradigm in education.  In addition, we find ourselves the only body representing schools on the SSA management board and we would very much like to ensure that other schools’ organisations join.  The SSA acts to bring together organisations, charities and corporate bodies that have an interest in promoting sustainability in schools.  Both ESR and the SSA will continue to evolve and have greater resonance in 2013.

Hertford Children’s Book Festival.  The first of this annual event was held in the summer of 2012 as a collaboration lead by our school and Hertford Theatre and including Courtyard Arts, Hertford Museum and the Town and District Councils.  For a no-budget event across three days it was very successful and plans are afoot for a second festival in September/October 2013.  We hope to draw bigger crowds and raise the profile of literature and reading for children through author events, film and performance. #hcbf13

In our silos we are in danger of being unable to hold a shared vision.

Silo Mentaility.  All of the above, through the year, has lead me to recognise the phenomenon of the “silo mentality” and work towards finding a way to break through this kind of rigid thinking.  It is certainly a danger in and between independent schools.  And before the comments about schools as business and competitiveness start to arrive, it has to be recognised that we are living (or ought to be) in enlightened times where we know we can all gain much more through collaboration and mutual understanding.  Where the notion of “Creating Shared Value“, in a corporate sense, can add value to any operation and must now be taken up by schools.

Time for a #headsmeet I think!