HTC One

I don’t normally write product reviews on my blog but this one I had to as it speaks right to my techy geekiness and my love of social media.

I have recently started using the HTCOne as my main phone. I was really excited about getting it as my two main uses of a phone are 1) the internet and 2) the camera. The main reason I have never gone to “the dark side” of Apple is the lack of a decent camera.

So to get a phone with a fab camera – including the Zoe camera function which I now cannot do without – and such a gorgeous screen for using for the internet was a bit of a find.

On the homescreen of the HTCOne is the new BlinkFeed. This feeds onto the homescreen all the latest updates from a choice of social media and news websites. I started using mine with Facebook and Twitter plus a couple of newspapers.

I personally found it a bit messy though as Tweets do not lay in order as such as it picks the “highlights” so then I switched to just having a variety of news feeds from papers. And now I LOVE IT. I never read the papers normally and Twitter is usually the main way I get the news. So having a feed of news items on my homepage has actually made me start reading the news more often. As well as sites like The Guardian and The Independent I have TechCrunch for my geek updates which is a bit of levity in amongst the politics!

It got me wondering too. How could we harness this for students at school? How could BlinkFeed be replicated onto school IT systems to give snapshots of the outside world? Maybe with Fronter there could be a news room with loads of RSS feeds laid out in a funky way to give students a way to pick and choose the news that interests them?

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My letter to Sainsburys

I am sending this to Sainsbury’s tonight. I have been a happy customer for many years and still believe they are generally a good company but last night they appalled me…

Hello

Yesterday I had a delivery booked for 7-8pm.
As the snow came down hard and fast all day in my area and I struggled home slipping around while walking along the pavements and across roads I fully expected to have a phone call from Sainsbury’s to tell me that you could not deliver that night but would I mind having my delivery the next day.

However to my surprise the only call I got was my driver apologising for a fifteen minute delay as he had to dig himself out of the snow twice on his first deliveries.

I would love to say I am writing to congratulate you on such amazing customer service no matter what the weather. But actually I am appalled that a driver’s safety was at risk just so I could have my loaf of bread and veg on time.

Are we living in such a day and age of competition that you value your staff so little over your customers? I would have happily received my delivery later in exchange for knowing your staff were all safe. I am sure you would have had some complaints from less agreeable customers but I hate to think you would not tolerate a little abuse over the phone rather than have a police call and say your driver veered off course into a tree on his way home – as did happen in Essex last night and a driver was killed. My driver lived out in Essex too but still had 5 more deliveries to make after me – each one taking him further from his home and family.

I suggest you pay as much attention to your staff’s happiness and safety as you do to your customer’s in future.

I would like you to pass on my thanks and appreciation to the driver for his effort and completely unnecessary apologies and pass my disdain to your bosses in charge of making him go out in such atrocious conditions.

When my shopping comes above a person’s life I will let you know. In the meantime please protect your staff at all costs.

Kind regards
Jodie Lopez

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A new job and all the excitement

I have kept you all waiting long enough for this announcement but I am now going to tell you about my new job role.

The reason I have kept it quiet is because I am still awaiting final confirmation, references to be returned and be satisfactory, medical to be passed etc etc so my job is still under probation right now but hopefully by stating that I won’t now jinx things too much!!

So anyway…

…the job…

…is…

*drum roll*

I will be working for Pearson… as…

Training Consultant/Champion Schools Coordinator (Learning Platforms)

That’s a long job title but it is a job of two halves.

Part 1) I will be one of the education team members delivering training and support for schools, primarily for Fronter.

Part 2) I will be the Champion Schools Coordinator driving forward the network of outstanding examples of Fronter use and supporting schools in connecting both within and around the Learning Platforms.

Those of you who have known me for a few years or from school will not be at all surprised that I will be so involved with Fronter now. I have always loved using Fronter in my schools, as ICT Coordinator and as a class teacher, to drive forward learning, collaboration and communication amongst other things. I have long been making little Fronter help videos on the side and posting them on You Tube to help others so it this is my perfect job role really!

Luckily my involvement on the school side of Fronter means there are not quite as many new faces as there would be at a totally new company but I will be spending some time settling in to the fantastic Education Team and getting myself up to speed with all the fab new changes and advances Fronter has made since I was in school.

I am really looking forward to visiting schools all over the country and finding out about the fantastic work they are doing in their schools. I cannot wait to find wonderful, innovative examples to share with everyone on Twitter and at networking events.

As you all know I love social media and will be continuing to use that geeky enthusiasm to build the network of schools using Fronter and other Pearson tools as well as connecting still as a teacher and learner myself.

I will have a new “work” Twitter account – @FronterJodie –  for discussing all things Pearson and for anyone to connect with me regarding my job roles and will still be @jodieworld for all my other teacher talk and also my random jokes/sarcasm and X Factor updates. Please feel free to follow either or both and I will try not to duplicate tweets – feel free to tell me off if I do!

If you are a Fronter user then please let yourself be known to me either via this blog or Twitter – I would love to chat and connect and see how we can help and support you in your Fronter use. If you have any fantastic examples of your use of Learning Platforms please do share those with me too so that everyone can be inspired.

Anyway that is the new job in some sort of a nutshell but I am only a few days in so am sure I will update as and when I am more settled in also.

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How technology changed my life

I have always been a geek. In school I was the child noone wanted to be friends with. Throughout primary and til about the age of 13 I was the one who sat at the front of the class and permanently had their hand up, waving it around and sitting up even straighter if I wasn’t asked to answer immediately

“Me, Miss, I know, Miss, MISS!”

That was me. It is me again actually but it wasn’t me for a long time between the ages of 13 and 30. And this blog is a little explanation of why.

I was top of the class at pretty much everything when growing up. My mum taught me to read and write and do maths before I started school so by the time I did I was far and away more advanced than the rest of the class. This left me to carry on my learning with books on my own while the rest of the class worked together.

As I progressed through school my bookishness continued and I continued to shine in all areas of the curriculum. Aside from two:

1) Handwriting

2) Sports involving a ball (football, tennis, volleyball etc)

Every section of my school reports throughout primary and secondary makes a reference to my handwriting. It was awful. Still is although much better after years and years of faithful practice and hard work.

It didn’t matter how great a piece of work I had written I would always get a comment on the marking about my presentation. Every. Time.

In Secondary this got even worse. I was top of the class in German and the teacher hated it. (This may have been due to me correcting her spelling a couple of times even though she was a German lady) So even though my work was correct she would give me a B and everyone else an A* and would cite my handwriting as the reason.

In PE I was shouted at frequently for not catching the ball. For the ball hitting me in the face/leg/stomach before I had even tried to grab for it. Shouted at by my peers but also by my teachers.

These two areas were the only things I couldn’t do at school. Yet they ruled my school years. Why? Because the teachers could never EVER let me off.

And you might think fair enough. Why shouldn’t a teacher tell me what I need to improve? If I was good at everything else then clearly these were my only targets, right?

Well there is one piece of information I haven’t told you yet. But a piece of information that the teachers DID know.

I am blind in my left eye. Completely. Have been since birth.

My handwriting was particularly affected because during the years when I was learning handwriting the doctors were trying to make my blind eye see. So I had to wear a patch on my “good” eye. For two and a half years I was pretty much entirely blind and feeling my way around the classroom. I was allowed to take the patch off at lunchtime otherwise I couldn’t see my food but all morning I lived in darkness but still completed all my work. I wrote over and over on the same line in my book with no idea what I was doing.

Ball sports will always be a problem. I cannot see the ball if it approaches from my left side so it will hit me in the face. Everyone else will laugh. And their laughter, not the pain, will make me cry. It always did. Because it was always accompanied by shouting from the teacher.

Now I clearly have succeeded in my life despite having awful handwriting and not being able to play ball sports. But it never, ever leaves me.

At 13 I gave up trying and became much more rebellious (nothing major I just stopped doing homework). Until then I had tried so hard to impress my teachers, to little avail, that I had alienated all the other students. I came across as a “Know it all” and a geek. I do now too. The difference is that now I don’t care.

When I was 14 I handed in some work to my biology teacher and as I handed it over to her I said “Sorry it is messy” – my default apology at this stage. She replied “It’s OK Jodie I know your content will be excellent and that is what matters.” I burst into tears. She was horrified thinking she said something wrong and I had to explain to her that she was the first teacher to tell me that for years. It was a bitter sweet realisation.

I work as hard as I do and absorb all the information I can so that I can be as good as everyone else despite my one eye. I have always overcompensated. This meant I got promoted before others in pretty much every job I have ever had. I didn’t mean to step on anyone toes I just have a severely low opinion of myself so always strive to work hard enough that I don’t get sacked but usually ends up with me overdoing it.

So moving into teaching. And why technology changed my life.

I love computers. Computers can do what I cannot. They can present my ideas neatly. You would not have read this far if I had handwritten this.

So I have always turned to computers to do stuff for me to cover up my inadequacies.

But I have not always been allowed the safety net and comfort of a computer and am still not allowed it sometimes. Just like many children now are having mobile phones/iPads/laptops banned in the classroom and have to wait for their hour a week in the ICT suite. I had to wait for my hour every two weeks!

I got good at computers and ICT after school when I realised the power within them. But imagine if I had been allowed to word process all my work in school? Or present my ideas in a podcast or video?

When I became a teacher I made sure all my class had access to doing work both on paper and through ICT. That is why I do what I do. I did not get ICT awards and get promoted so fast because I had some big vision of innovating the world. Simply because I wanted the children I taught to never feel at school the way I did. I wanted them to all feel they belonged and to make sure they all know their strengths AND their weaknesses but also have a toolbelt of ways to overcome their weaknesses because our disabilities in life should never become our excuses, merely our triumphs.

By doing that in my classroom I did win awards and all the rest. But it is not WHY I did it. And I am partly annoyed I won anything because in this day and age EVERY teacher should be allowing their children a range of different ways of presenting themselves. Because not every disability is obvious.

Not every disability involves a statement or an IEP.

I kept my blind eye a secret for years. I was fed up of people taking the mickey out of me and of people thinking I wanted special treatment. So I didn’t even tell some of my closest friends. I let people believe I am really clumsy when I repeatedly banged into the door frame. Nowadays I would still rather turn down a friendly game of football by making a joke about being fat than by simply saying “I am blind in one eye”

But there is a huge difference in my life now. Because I will use technology to prove I am as good as others and sometimes even better. Not because I can but because I should. Because every teacher needs to know the difference a small thing such as typing rather than handwriting can have on someone’s life.

I will also leave you with one tale for all headteachers out there. This year I applied for what seemed to be my ideal job. ICT Specialist for a primary school who wanted a visionary and hard worker to transform their ICT department to be outstanding.

I applied – being Outstanding and a visionary and all. With my awards listed on my CV alongside my previous experience and dedication proven. I did not even get an interview. I asked for feedback.

“We cannot grant an interview based on the handwriting on your application letter. You should practice this for future jobs”

And I was back to being 9 years old again. Do I feel sad I didn’t get the job? No. A school who wants visionary ICT will not be worried about my handwriting and that is the only school I want to work for. But am I sad for the children of that school? Yes because they lost a candidate who can run that ICT department really well. All because of a minor disability that could be overlooked for an ICT job in 2012 don’t you think?!

I want to say here also that the teachers I had were not “bad” teachers. They were mostly actually very good teachers and I learnt a lot. What they were doing was what they THOUGHT was best. They just got it wrong. Not on purpose. Not maliciously (except maybe the German teacher ;-) ) but just because they wanted me to be better. They just didn’t realise I could not be the “better” that they wanted. I just needed a different way to be “better.”

So that is my mission. To show schools and teachers that ICT does not have to be some huge gadget- and gimmick-filled extravaganza. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It doesn’t need an ICT specialist (I have no formal ICT training under my belt and am still lagging far behind my Twitter peers in those aspects) but that tiny little changes to how they incorporate ICT into their classroom can make a HUGE difference to many children.

Oh and this post was supposed to be about how technology changed my life. Well it didn’t.  That’s the thing. It isn’t life changing. It doesn’t stop people needing me to write stuff by hand sometimes. It doesn’t stop me being awful at ball sports. But by using technology my life got a whole new focus. And by being good at using technology in class it did give me a career I love more and more every day. Plus it made paperwork it a whole lot easier!!

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The ultimate tool to transform learning

Wanna know what the ultimate tool to transform learning is?

It’s you. That’s right, you. YOU! Right there.

That’s it.

You can transform learning in your classroom/home/university lectures/your own head WHENEVER AND HOWEVER YOU WANT.

You can change it daily. You can change it hourly. You can change it mid lesson. However you want.

Just think back. How did you like learning at school? What are you passionate about? What got you passionate about teaching in the first place? Then do it. Try it.

If you even clicked on this blog title you are already looking further than you need to. And if you have read this far you really need to turn off the computer and just think about what you love to do.

Your passion alone can transform. No technology. No special schemes. No bought-in experts. Only you.

You can pick up tips, sure. You can use technology to do something different, yes.

But the only thing that will ever TRULY TRULY and DEEPLY transform learning…is you.

So do it. And be proud.

And if you got this far then you don’t believe me or you think this is a load of sensation and I will make an exciting, insightful, academic-related, quote-based and hit-the-nail-on-the-head point in a minute.

Well I won’t

The End.

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The Ups and Downs of Freelancing

Last night I asked my husband if it was alright if I go out for an evening next week (asking in the courtesy sense not in the “please let me out of the house” sense) and his response was “Are you going out on a work related thing or are you actually going out to have fun?”

I was a bit taken aback by this question but on reflection he has a point. Lately nearly all of my going out has involved work-related outings. They are all fun things – why would I spend an evening doing something I don’t like?! But they are all work-related. Either just because they are people I know from Twitter and conferences or because they are people I know from schools and businesses I work with. Many are events rater than traditional nights out. Games Based Learning forums, TeachMeet-type events, informal meetings with potential clients etc etc.

Since going freelance at Easter I have been wallowing in the pride of not having marking and planning to do in the evenings like I did when class-based. But it seems I have allowed too much work into my evenings in other ways. I don’t mind this at all. But I think I may have become a bore to anyone who doesn’t work in education!

I think mainly it is finances and guilt that make me anxious to never miss an event. Financially I am, of course, worse off as I am new to freelancing and losing my regular (very decent) teacher wage. Every penny counts now. Every meeting counts. Every networking event counts.

Also, though, I think my guilt has caused me to tell my husband that every evening/weekend event is possible work. I tell him the stories of the evening that relate to work rather than the ones where we were all just drinking and laughing about stories of being students etc. I do this because I want him to feel proud that I am working hard for us. I know he worries about money now that I do not have a regular wage. He has been unbelievably supportive about my career change and actually tried to get me to do it sooner. But I was the main wage earner so it is a concern. I do still make enough money in theory but now I am stuck in a series of invoicing circles where I have no idea when or how I will be paid. Will it be next week Next month? In two months? By BACS? By cheque?

I can no longer rely on money to arrive at a certain time. So I am conscious of every moment that involves spending money. Can I afford to pay for a restaurant lunch with a potential client? What if they then do not become a client and I am just left with a bill for lunch out when I had perfectly good packets of noodles at home?

So those are the main cons of freelancing so far.

However on the plus side:

I am happier than I have been for a long time and really feel like I am doing the right thing – for me, for my husband, for my future children, for schools and for my own mission of showing ICT in primary as something which doesn’t have to cost the earth (this mission is why I cannot charge what some freelancers do as it becomes counter-productive!)

I am meeting people who have been involved in my networking but who are now developing into friends who I feel I can count on for chats and advice for everything – even the non-educational stuff!

I am having a lot of fun. It might not seem so to my husband (must make sure I tell him the fun stories too) but I am loving every second.

I feel I am making a difference. I felt this before in school, of course, but now it feels more like it is less selfish. That may seem odd to those who think consultants are out for money over education but to me it is definitely the other way round. I could have stayed in a well-paid, secure job with my holidays (I have to work through summer to keep us afloat – finding that work is especially hard!) but I chose to do what I do because (and this may sound egotistical) I feel I have something valuable to offer schools. I think that, although there are many many many great people doing fantastic things with ICT in Primary (I know loads of them, luckily) there are still many schools who need help to ensure their students are getting fair access to the 21st Century learning stuff.

I am lucky that I have got pretty regular work at the moment. It’s not full time yet and I haven’t got the right balance yet. But I hope I will.

If I don’t then I guess it is back to the drawing board. Or the Interactive White Board at least.

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The world of attribution or something like it

A lot has been spoken on Twitter and blogs about giving attribution and credit to people recently. I won’t cite all the conversations – because I cannot keep track myself! And this is one of the issues I have with the whole thing too but I will come back to that.

When I first began using Twitter it was as a person who liked a few celebrities and liked to enter competitions. After a year or so I realised there was a whole network of teachers connecting and sharing ideas. I thought this was brilliant. At the time I found being an ICT Coordinator quite isolating in that within school I had noone to learn new tricks and techniques from. I was doing well on my own so it was fine but those who have connected with lots of others you will also know what I found out – that having a whole load of ideas on the table is really helpful when you are teaching a new topic etc.

So I loved being able to ask a question or bat ideas about with people on Twitter. It is this sharing and supporting which, I believe, made the Twitter teacher network grow so much and it is now bigger than I can even contemplate.

I am more than happy to share any of my ideas and for people to use them in their classroom/school. I do not expect anyone to mention me or my ideas. If someone takes that idea and does it well then that was not my doing anyway. That is their hard work and teacher skills not mine which made it a success in their classroom and their school.

If someone gives me an idea and I use it i will often and usually say where it came from – even if just to tell my students that I got the idea from “someone” on Twitter. But at the point at which they have taken that idea and done some work then the praise lays with my students for doing well with that idea.

So if someone does well with an idea that they took from someone else I have no issue and in fact, they have the right to be proud of it in their own right as they managed to make someone else’s idea their own in practice.

So I don’t always attribute when I use an idea in class. And I can only apologise for that. I sometimes take your idea – I always thank you for it and say I am going to give it a go – but I may not write your name on the bottom of the SMARTboard I make to teach it to the children, for example.

However, I am now non-school based. And I now speak at conferences and in schools about work that I do. So I am now in effect selling “myself” and “my ideas”. But of course not everything I do has come from my own ideas. Some of the things I do are my own ideas (they may have already been done by someone but where I had no knowledge of that I can only assume I had that idea independently anyway so do not attribute) but the ones where I know I took them from someone else I have to make an effort to attribute those.

It isn’t always easy. Sometimes I cannot remember exactly who it came from  so I believe by at least saying “I got the idea from a teacher on Twitter” I am, at least, not claiming this as my own independent idea.

Some are more clear – for example I have taught people about making maths videos using SMARTboard recorder by children, for children. And mostly when I speak I tell people the idea came from Eric Marcos of Mathtrain.tv who I was lucky enough to hear speak at BETT 2011. I recently forgot though. I made a video and posted it on YouTube for a TeachMeet as I couldn’t make it in person. On that video, in my nerves, I forgot to mention where the idea came from and I felt very bad about it. I didn’t make any money from that video as such but if someone finds that then finds me and hires me into school or asks me to write about it I have a duty to ensure they know that it was not my own idea, merely something I adapted for myself. I added it later to the video description when I realised my error but I still felt bad about the whole thing as people had seen the video before that happened.

I personally think we do need to attribute as much as we can. I don’t always get it right and sometimes forget. I hope as I go further into freelance I will get it right more often and will always make a note of who I heard an idea from where I can.

I make a particular effort at conferences to say where my ideas came from as it is more obvious in that scenario. But I don’t think I have always done it well on Twitter and in conversations. On Twitter the 140 characters is usually my excuse but that is not good enough. In conversation my only excuse is that I am not naturally social and every conversation in person is a little struggle in my brain. But that is not good enough either.

I am never in a million years going to claim I have any authority on anything and am sure there are people who think i do it wrong – who maybe have seen times when I don’t. I can only apologise. I am trying. Hard. I look at others and sometimes feel they don’t work so hard at it. maybe I am not seeing the times they do it right. I am sure I have no right to judge and yet I do. I am human and not a perfect one at that.

But I hope that the more I do consultancy the more people will realise that I try and give credit where I can and where I know it.
I have written articles and attributed where my ideas came from. Some of them have been my ideas and some have been from others.

My recent conversations re: attribution on twitter and elsewhere have, I fear, been misconstrued (as I am not good at articulating) as me saying I am amazing and other people are rubbish at it. This is certainly not how I feel about it in actuality but I fear I have said it all entirely wrong due to my own personal struggle with it rather than, actually, any moral standpoint.

I am in no position to judge anyone, I know that more than anyone, but the whole issue has made me think more deeply about how much I do attribute and what I need to do to improve my own practice and that, at least, I do feel is a good thing.

One thing I do know is that the whole dicussion makes me uncomfortable. There is only one reason for that. Guilt. I haven’t always done it right. So I am pledging right now to make a more concerted effort. I can only hope I do so in the forgiveness of anyone who feels I have wronged them or others in the past.

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New surname New husband New job

A lot of new beginnings since Easter!

On Easter Sunday I got married to the gorgeous Vincent Lopez. You can now call me J-Lo if you wish! The wedding day went fantastically well and all ran smoothly – but what else would you expect from the girl who took 14 coaches and 1100 children and parents to Margate for the day? ;-)

After the wedding we had a week of relaxing before getting back to work.

I started my first week of freelance with a midnight keynote speaker slot in Australia. Except in Australia it was 9am and I was connecting via Skype and Elluminate. Despite a perfect technical rehearsal on the Friday before we had some audio issues Australia-side and had to conduct some of the talk via me showing screen shots and typing the words to be read out the other end! Not ideal but will be videoing the rest of the talk this week to send over for the staff. I was talking about use of Learning Platforms and my experience with Fronter. The school I was speaking to are rolling out to their secondary age students and were looking for inspiration for the teachers and other staff. I wish them all the very best with the project ongoing and will be in touch regularly to help where I can and also steal their ideas when they have got it all going!

Then I got a few hours sleep and went to a school in Essex for a supply day in Year 6. Although the supply work is a way to earn my bread and butter money until the freelance is full time I do enjoy seeing different schools, meeting new pupils and finding out how different schools organise themselves and the school. It is a bit like being a fly on the wall and I am always grateful for any tips I pick up at each school.

On Tuesday I worked from home and started to work behind the scenes on the website getting ready to launch some new free resources which should be live by the end of the month. Also my email inbox had gotten pretty busy over Easter so spent so time replying as needed.

Wednesday I was asked back to the same Year 6 class as Monday which is good. Always nice to be requested again as it means I did something right! Another lovely day with the very high level class.

On Thursday I went to a school on supply for a Year 4 and then a Year 3/4 class. After nearly getting lost on the way to the school I arrived for a nice day teaching the students.

And I rounded the week off on Friday by meeting with the lovely people at Green Schools Online who designed my gorgeous website for me and are my go-to guys for business advice and help as needed. This week I needed advice on all things tax related for working out on my own. Not exciting as such but certainly necessary.

Throughout the last few weeks offers of work have started to come in. Next week I will be off to Torquay on behalf of Fronter for a Learning Platform event. I am looking forward to catching up with Oliver Quinlan who will be talking about Google Apps.

I have started work also on my presentation for the Teacher’s Conference in Singapore where I will be leading a session on “Using ICT to Enrich, Engage and Enhance the Curriculum.” I am excited to be speaking at my first international conference and also spending some time talking to teachers from all over the world about their experiences and expertise. I will also be part of a teacher panel for a discussion on day two of the conference which should get realy interesting.

With a few consultancy days already booked and other conferences in the pipeline I am very optimistic about the future of my career. I hope I can use my experience and expertise to help many schools in the UK and overseas to implement ICT in an engaging and authentic way for their pupils and staff.

The Happy Couple

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Upcoming Events

Life is getting a bit crazy in JodieWorld right now. The fantastic kind of crazy.

I am on the 3 week countdown for the wedding which is wonderfully exciting and just a bit nerve-wracking as it feels like the last few weeks is where it all goes crazy after a year of careful and gentle planning!

Also planning a few more talks at various places. I will be speaking at the National Teachers’ Conference in Singapore at the beginning of June which I am thrilled about. Such an honour to be asked and I hope to meet many of the inspirational teachers over there. Would like to chat to people about comparing education systems!

I will also be appearing at a few TeenTech pre-events with the lovely Dawn Hallybone and many other fantastic teachers – a humbling crowd.

But the first one to be prepared for is the Pearson Classroom of the Future event at TechHub on April4th at 6.30pm. I am really looking forward to this as I love events which bring the educators and the entrepreneurs together. Working alongside each other is, in my view, the only way to ensure that education really prepares children for higher education/workplaces/21st Century life.

Hope lots of you can make it. If you haven’t signed up click the link above – it is free and the first of hopefully many similar events.

My favourite part of these events is the networking and meeting inspirational teachers/entrepreneurs/developers and more. Am sure this event will offer a diverse group to meet!

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Why not everyone should blog

I must start this blog by saying I have nothing against blogging (would be a bit ridiculous of me given that I am doing it now) and, in fact, I find many blogs very useful/interesting/funny/cute etc etc and read a lot of them a week. I write my own too occasionally!

In the interests of good balance I will also be including many of my favourite blogs at the bottom of the post as I have a great many people to thank for their exciting and useful blogs which have served me well in 2011.

However, that said, I am concerned by the sudden rise in blogging numbers and here are my reasons why.

1) Not everyone can write in an interesting way. Now I am not saying I am an expert either but some people in life, I am afraid, are dull. Putting their words online makes them no more interest I am sorry to say. Some other people are very interesting in person but blog in a very dull way. In real life their hand gestures and body language makes for a great story which just does not translate online with strangers.

2) Not everyone has anything to say. Most of the blogs I read are by or for teachers. The vast majority, therefore, are grounded in fact or, at the vey least, an educated opinion. They are usually written in a professional way – aside from those who deliberately hide their true identity to allow them to speak freely and openly. But there are also those people who have nothing specific to say, teachers or not, and who do not focus their blogs in any way – the “online diary” type of writing. These posts consist of telling us about their bus journey to a hilarious (if you were there) incident. Now if you have a fantastic writing style (refer to point 1) you can get away with this and we will all happily read your day-to-day mishaps in much the same way as we watch a stand-up comedian and laugh along, not because the content is hilarious but because the delivery is. If you do not have this writing gift then please keep your diary private. Do not spam me on Twitter asking for my comments as the only thing I am tempted to write is “Thank you for wasting my time please shush.” And that just wouldn’t be very nice of me. Also who am I to judge your life? So please don’t ask me to.

3) How many blogs can you really expect/be expected to read in a week? This point refers more to the idea that blogging “has” to be done by everyone. I have read a few blogs like this lately and observed conversations on Twitter between teachers who are all desperate to get all of their colleagues and students blogging daily. I am all for showing them blogging and giving them the opportunity to try. But if you badger them to do it – especially those who are reluctant – you are more than likely creating more blogs than anyone will be able to read. In one fail swoop you will be robbing them of  the very “global audience” you wanted to give them in the first place.  Because we just don’t have time to read and comment on every person’s life do we? Again this can be organised well such as with @DeputyMitchell’s Quadblogging – where each school is placed in a group of 4 to comment on each other’s blogs regularly. This gives a guranteed audience and comments to at least give a proper taste of blogging and gives the children the motivation to improve their writing (see point 4) . But force adults into blogging non stop and they will be effectively shouting into an empty room or just being the equivalent of the person who stands and talks next to you at the bus stop when you aren’t listening and don’t want to as you have your own life to get on with.

4) There has to be a purpose. I don’t blog very often as you can see from my list of posts. This is because I only blog when I start to feel the need. I don’t open a blog and then stare at in it much the same way as I stared at the blank paper in my first General Studies ‘A’ level mock exam. (I quit the ‘A’ level as I had nothing to say about any of the given question prompts). I fear that those forced into (you can call it coerced or encouraged if you like but for any non-believer it is likely to be a force with a smile added) blogging will do just that. Open a blog because they are “supposed to” with nothing to say and then either make something up or talk about something dull (ref point 2). Children especially, I feel, need a purpose for their writing when blogging as even some children’s blogs I have been asked to comment on have nothing to say. I am all for encouragement of course but any child who has ever been taught by me knows that I will never celebrate average work/minimum expectations and I am not about to start – if you want a sticker/comment from me then you better be prepared to earn it! ( Update: This is not to say I do not appreciate that the post may be little Johnny’s best work. But if you tell me this is a blog from a Year 6 child I will expect Year 6 level work, not 3 lines about their trip to the supermarket with not an adjective in sight. If this is his best work as he has Special Educational Needs then by all means celebrate it with him and the school but me putting a comment on should not make it more valuable to him – he should feel proud because it is his best work and the same applies to Gifted and Talented children too – celebrate the best work but often I don’t believe this is the case with many of the blogs forwarded to me. If you are unsure ask yourselves this first – if they had written the same on paper would you have been as happy? )

5) Spamming. I mentioned this earlier but spamming has become no longer the job of desperate businesses or virus hackers alone. Teachers, I am afraid, have taken to Twitter as a way of pushing blogs (their own or their students’)  in our faces 24/7. And as ICT professionals we feel the need to encourage this. Why? Well because we want them all using it don’t we? Well no, actually I don’t want them ALL using it anymore than I want them ALL using Microsoft only or Windows only. I want them to know about it. To know how to do it. To make a choice as to when to use it. To know why they are using it. But I don’t want them ALL to do it ALL the time.

6) It isn’t the ONLY way. I am a bit naughty writing this post because my biggest push in education has been for the Getting Into Literacy programme. I believe firmly that ICT as a tool for encouraging literacy is key. So of COURSE I love blogging! But I also love film making, podcasting, Games Based Learning, digital storytelling and much much more. And each one has to fit the purpose. For children who cannot write very well then a podcast is every bit as powerful as a blog. A film made well is fantastically powerful and has global audience in places like YouTube. Films have been going viral long before blogs haven’t they? Give the children/adults the choice of blogging, please please do, but please do not force it upon them as in YOU MUST BE SOCIAL NETWORKING AND BLOGGING OR YOU CANNOT ENTER SOCIETY. This is as wrong as the forcing upon us of SATs tests and league tables. One size DOES NOT fit all.

With the contented sigh of someone who has gotten something off her chest I will leave it there for now but may add others as they spring up! My final message is this:

Blogging is exciting and great when it has purpose and a global audience and an element of sharing (comments etc) but if it becomes something we just “do” because we “should” then it becomes as exciting as writing a hundred Christmas cards – We know some people will like it a bit but we also know that they will be in the bin soon and our hard work will have been a waste. Make it meaningful, make it interesting and make sure you want to do it.

And on that note here are some of my favourite  blogs:

http://www.oliverquinlan.com/liveblogs/

http://www.timrylands.com/

http://heathfieldcps.net/

http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/

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