Tag Archives: Joyce Valenza

Kick Start Activity 2 – Advanced – Posts! The heartbeat of the Blog.

First of all, how important is it for a blog post to be effective?

That may seem like a stupid question but I think that it’s reasonable considering many bloggers would say they’re not out to score points. At the same time, whether we like it or not, we write for an audience (even if we also write for ourselves). Who doesn’t like feedback and discussion? The question is, how to attract readers and consequently a network, however small, so that we can share our thoughts and have them challenged and extended by others.

One of the ways to do this is to think about how to write an effective post.

Hmmm….

from my Flickr photostream

1.  Even adults like looking at pictures

Although this has nothing to do with the writing, but a picture always enhances the blog post. After my initial rave, you may have been relieved to receive the visual distraction, and obviously the picture should be relevant to the post. You can be clever with the picture and use it either to illustrate the message using humour, metaphor, surprise, cryptic association or accompanied by a quotation. Either way, it breaks up the mass of text. I like to use more than one picture if I have enough time to find what I need.

2. The heading should not be too boring and preferably interesting

I’m not saying you have to knock people out with the heading but at least have a hook. When I read Joyce Valenza’s award winning post, Things I think teacher librarians should unlearn (20 and counting), I immediately zoomed in on ‘unlearn’. Not sure why, maybe because I get sick of reading about what we should learn, and unlearning seems a little subversive. I was very curious about what Joyce would consider unlearning.

3. Experience

A heading can be catchy but the content of the post is even more important. Going on to read Joyce’s list of what teacher librarians should unlearn, it was clear that Joyce’s experience enabled her to punch out so many excellent points. An blog post is effective when the author writes from experience.  Even though we might feel we are not saying anything new, there is always someone who will appreciate our perspective, for whom our experiences and observations are new and interesting.

4.  Generosity

People jump at a post which shares generously, such as Joyce Seitzinger’s Moodle tool guide for teachers post. In this case, Joyce adapted a social media cheat sheet with a business/marketing focus to one relevant to education. When you do the hard work and share a resource you’ve created in your post, it’s a winner.

5.  Honesty

Jeremy Harmer’s post, Why I walked out – but would you?, was shortlisted in the Edublogs influential blog post category. It’s a good example of an anecdotal post which I always enjoy reading and also writing. Jeremy writes honestly about walking out of Marc Prensky’s conference session – that in itself attracts the reader’s attention. I think the post works because it’s so reflective, and invites the reader to respond to a series of questions.

Which brings me to my last point:

6.  Conversation

An effective blog post invites readers to join the conversation. This is something I strive to do because there’s nothing more satisfying than engaging people in dialogue, and perhaps influencing them to come back to the blog regularly.

from my photostream

I hope that my post has given you enough to savour, something to chew on.

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Where have I been and what have I been doing

That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. To make me feel a little appeased in my guilt for blog abandonment.

A few things have been happening, and these things would normally require a detailed and possibly time consuming write-up. Hence my blog absence. This is, sadly, not going to happen at a time when too many other things need to be done.

So…

Monday night I was one of the lucky ones to find a seat in BMW Edge for the free talk by Bill Henson (The light and dark and the shades of grey) to open the Melbourne Art Fair. Notice I didn’t say ‘the controversial Bill Henson’, the reason being that his talk was not, as some may have expected, a political or moral justification for the (fairly) recent censorship of his art (not photography, which is merely the medium). Surprisingly, his extremely esoteric talk used broad brushstrokes to paint a picture of civilisation shaped by centuries-old art, architecture, literature and music. I won’t attempt to summarise his talk but I think that one of his main themes was the need to expose young people to the history of our civilisation, to the breadth of artistic expression, in order to open up thinking, questions and discussion, and maintain a fuller context for the formation of understandings. Some may have expected a bitter, insecure man, lashing out at critics, as claimed in The Age article (written, surely, during Bill’s talk – or even before) which I read when I got home from the talk. These people were disappointed, then, because Bill’s composure and lack of defensiveness was noticeable.

We should be wary of governments and interest groupswho try to impose restrictions on the free exercise of theartistic imagination. Our zeal to protect innocence should not come at the cost of violating artistic experience.

If we believe that art is a high form of education, thatits basis is moral and its goal truth, then we should resistthe impulse that would deny the artist the right to deal with what may sometimes be ambiguous, complex anddisturbing.

Artists can seem like holy fools, they can seem likedevils. They may exhibit the cunning of the insane orthe illumination of the saint. But genuine art is the greatbridge between the inner world in each of us and theordinary world in which we live. Art shows us the truthand it should never be the quarry of the witch-hunter orthe social engineer. Any attempt to make the world betterby destroying or shackling art represents a repudiationof the truth.

(Not all reviews of Henson’s talk were unreasonable; this one wasn’t.)

So, that was that. And since then, I’ve enjoyed many conversations with various people about censorship, art and the education of young people.

The recent School Library Association of Victoria PD is another potential essay in the making. But I’m tired, so suffice it to say, I was immensely satisfied with the line-up of speakers, particularly the guest speaker, Joyce Valenza, and our own Adrian Camm.

The Bright Ideas blog has covered the main information and links from this day. I would just like to say that Joyce  is a passionate educator who surely never sleeps because how else would she have managed to create such amazing resources. It wasn’t hard work at all listening to Joyce – she’s blessed with a vibrancy and creativity which makes everything look deceptively easy. Take a look at her wikis and look up the rest of her stuff too.

Adrian, I’m not a games person, but after your talk, I might consider conversion…

What else?

Well I’ve taken up the challenge at Kew High School of running a couple of PD sessions introducing Web 2.0 tools for authentic and connected learning and teaching. Since I’m new to Kew, it’s an entirely different experience presenting to people I don’t know, feeling uneasy about the fact that I can’t read their faces to ascertain their reaction to my assault on them. My Whitefriars experiences, on the other hand, were based on relationships and the gradual introduction and integration of Web 2.0 technology, often in context of a class which I taught collaboratively over a period of time. I much prefer ‘preaching’ to people I know, so that the conversation comes from a knowledge of how these people think and with respect for their individual styles as teachers.

Well, that’s enough for this post. Apologies for the rave.

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Filed under 21st century learning, learning, networking, Social media, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

Rest, recharge, and ready for another term!

National Gallery of Victoria (Städel exhibition)

I don’t know how non-teachers survive with so few holidays.  I’m not feeling guilty about teaching holidays though because that’s what I do, and I work hard, so if you’re not a teacher and feeling resentful, why don’t you do a teaching degree?

Seriously.

Teaching is one of the most satisfying careers. Yes, it can be frustrating, infuriating, depressing, tiring, all-consuming – but it’s definitely a privilege to have a hand in shaping young minds, the shapers of our future.

For me, working with people who love shaping those young minds is more than satisfying. Some of these educators are at my school, and many are elsewhere, and I’m grateful to them wherever they are.

Photo courtesy of Jane Hewitt on Flickr (Great quotes about learning and change)

I’ve really enjoyed these two weeks of holiday, and  balanced a nice mix of everything I need to recharge – enjoying the company of good friends, catching up with news and exchanging stories and ideas; going out into various parts of Melbourne in the winter (Melbourne has its own Winter style which I really like); appointments(!); domestic chores (not fun, but inevitable); reading and thinking, reflection and re-evaluating, shifting perspective, gathering strength and resolve, making plans for the new term ….

Amazing that I managed to pack in so much in the two weeks, including (possibly too many) musical concerts, for example, the Goodbye Hamer Hall concert in which my younger son played in the Melbourne Youth Music orchestra, the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI, and I also went to see the European Masters from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. AND I still had a lot of me-alone-time.

I finished reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson – a young adult novel written by John Green and David Levithan about two separate Will Graysons whose chance meeting changes their lives – and I’ve also started Seth Godin’s Linchpin (incidentally, Seth has just shared a free e-book) and Ali Shaw’s The girl with glass feet. I hope the reading doesn’t stop but somehow school projects always spill into the evenings and reading only begins just before my eyelids glue themselves shut.

The Tim Burton exhibition made me want to drag all the students out so they could be inspired by Tim’s prolific and imaginative illustrations. I could see so much potential for students writing, drawing, animation, sculpture, photostory, film-making – so many possibilities. I think the exhibition inspires because it shows early work back as far as school, and makes you want to have a go at all that zany creativity yourself.

So, what is my direction for third term? Well, apart from existing partnerships with classes, I want to trial more of my Writing Prompts. I want to give Howard Rheingold’s expert crap detection program a go, as well as teach some serious critical thinking.

Apart from stuffing my literature blog with new reviews by different members of my community, I’d like to take some of the ideas from Joyce Valenza’s Reading Wiki and run with them. There’s so much in this reading wiki too, and this one is bursting at the seams with resources for teacher librarians.

Plenty to do, and I’m even starting to get a little excited. I hope that you all have a great term, and for those of you in the middle of things, be inspired and re-inspired!

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Filed under Collaboration, creativity, Musing, reading, Teacher librarians, teaching