Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

August 29, 2010

Has Inclusion Been Effective? How Can We Tell?


8-24-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST 


We are very gareful to Christopher Rogers (@MrR0g3rs) for this week’s #Edchat summary. It wasn’t the easiest of topics as not everyone involved in the discussion had had personal experience of this type of teaching. I think you’ll agree it’s a job well done! Thank you :-). Christopher is a regular and enthusiastic contributer to #edchat and passionate about education and the role that social media can play. See  his bio at the end of the post.

As inclusion programs are adopted around the world it is important for us as educators to pause and reflect upon their effectiveness. The effectiveness of inclusion programs depend greatly upon a wide range of different elements. Once again it is clear that strong school leadership is essential for success. An inclusion program must be consistent and pervasive across the district, which is an impossibility without strong school leadership. Inclusion must be just as much about philosophy as it is about pedagogy, again something only effective school leadership can create. Part of this philosophy must be an unwaivering commitment to differentiated professional development for educators so that they have the training they need to be effective. If inclusion programs are implemented haphazardly school districts risk not only robbing the inclusion student of a quality education, but all of the other students as well.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • There is some level of confusion about what inclusion actually is. Whether it is a matter of semantics, training or application, many of the people involved in this chat expressed confusion or disagreement about what inclusion means.
  • Like so many of the things we discuss, training and professional development were seen as of paramount importance. Some of the chat participants complained that they had not received proper training for a variety of reasons including lack of funds and lack of focus
  • For inclusion to be effective there has to be a pervasive policy that includes all school stakeholders.
  • We need to ensure that inclusion programs are not a detriment to other aspects of the class, including acceleration for gifted and talented students.

 Here is a selection of some of the comments: 

 @Aaron_Eyler: Effective inclusion is when you can’t tell who the “Inclusion teacher” is…. or the “inclusion students”

 @Parentella: What about students who are excelling, but can’t go farther because teachers teach down to them? Is that inclusion?

 @MZimmer557: sometimes inclusion classrooms might not include a certified. teacher but a CIA. is that still quality inclusion when a CIA is not “certified?”

 @Aaron_Eyler: Inclusion needs to be looked at as a continuum. More support for both excelling and struggling learners.

@Spyder0902: Effective inclusion programs must include a common planning time and true/authentic collaboration between Gen and Sp Educators.

 @4thGrdTeach: On paper I fully support inclusion, but without proper programs/support can be detrimental to rest of class

 @cybraryman1: Teachers need a lot of training if they have inclusion in their classrooms. Can’t just put these students in mainstream without it.

 @ShellTerrell: Do most inclusion programs prepare teachers adequately for the diversity of their learners’ skills? 

 @rickweinberg: @tomwhitby I will be honest. As a parent, my wife has questioned if my daughter will feel different if she is in an inclusion class.

 @skipvia: This is another “shoehorn” solution–mandating inclusion without thinking about the overall structure of instruction.

 @baldy7: ok, but we need to remove the cold, clinical, terms in our work with kids. It is the first steps to changing the culture.

 @thenewtag: It isn’t right, but when inclusion is forced on teachers who don’t buy in, the kids lose – ALL of the kids lose.

@NSRiazat: My experience has shown that sometimes some pupils don’t buy into it….even though it is there to support.

 @malcolmbellamy: it is about finding every child’s potential: we can do real harm if we treat children as unable or believe that they are.

 @MissCheska: @smapplegate Good perspective on remediation; it seems to have negative connotation for students. How to turn around?

 @W3iGHTLESS: Inclusion = philosophy not action it doesn’t mean ALL or nothing- it means what is best for the stdt to get the most of his/her ed.

 @ImagineLearning: I’ve observed programs focus on students who R closest 2 passing standards. Students far behind or ahead get less attention. 

@olafelch: @shyj I don’t know. My point was really that genuine conviction is equally (or more) important than training.

 @ thenewtag: @michellek107 We’ agree re: what SHOULD Be required. But reality is it’s not, so as a parent, I want my kid w/tchr who WANTS my kid! 

To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

 As ever, there were some great links shared:

malcolmbellamy: see Seymour Papert’s discussion about bored children being labelled S.N. http://vimeo.com/9106174

1TEACHER4edu: 14 ways to get to know your students #edchat #k12 https://docs.google.com/present/view?id=dhn2vcv5_650dvtj3dgk

shamblesguru:  List of #edchat s on #shambles http://www.shambles.net/pages/learning/infolit/tagging  what’s missing? #ukedchat #ntedchat #edtech

FrankinPA:  @ShellTerrell Here’s a link describing the NEST program. #edchat http://ow.ly/2u4BE

eshwaranv:  An interesting article on inclusion in classroom: http://bit.ly/9NSlIl

courosa:  Resource for the #edchat ‘ers today – ‘In My Own Language’ http://is.gd/eB1Ix  Read the description, watch the entire vid.

diferitdaregal:  Related to inclusion of students with SEN I need more parteners for comenius from #Germany #Spain #U.K More http://bit.ly/aLrX6b  #edchat

graphskill:  The #edchat Daily is out – read this Twitter newspaper on http://paper.li/tag/edchat  (247 contributions today)

butwait:  @rhianna @hacool Have y’all seen @cybraryman1 ‘s awesome list of edu-related chats? It’s here: http://bit.ly/educhats  #smchat #edchat

@joe_bower:  The Answer Sheet – How ed reformers push the wrong theory of learning http://bit.ly/9U0uYh

cybraryman1:  My Assistive Technology page: http://bit.ly/cLsURs

cybraryman1:  Scaffolding page: http://bit.ly/cfuptl Differentiated Instruction: http://bit.ly/bOWv96

LesLinks:  Interesting news about Khan Academy and Bill Gates http://tinyurl.com/23bgnhu

malcolmbellamy:  for a really excellent example of a brilliant teacher in a truly integrated class see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olUn4Si22Sg

ImagineLearning:  @adihrespati here is a case study of one of our inclusion students using technology to close the gap http://bit.ly/dgkClj

DaleHolt:  is this your definition? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusion

DUMACORNELLUCIA:   Project ,, Different, but equal ” partenership and collaboration between SEN students around the world http://bit.ly/9uBoZE

CoachGinsburg:  A practical and EFFECTIVE approach toward differentiating: http://bit.ly/cWco85

DUMACORNELLUCIA:  Contact me luciane_twining@yahoo.com if you want to join a comenius project for SEN students http://bit.ly/9uBoZE

Intel Reader adds a Portable, Accessible Reading Tool to a High School Committed to Learning Disabled Kids http://bit.ly/cOaGyv

elanaleoni:  Hey all – I discovered a pretty in-depth discussion about inclusion: http://bit.ly/ah7gKw

CoachGinsburg:  Heterogeneous groups are great for meeting diverse needs–provided you strategically assign them. http://bit.ly/9Cyky6

diferitdaregal:  Comenius project ,, Different, but equal ” fight again discrimination of SEN students #senchat #edchat http://bit.ly/aLrX6b

web20education:  The pln community for project for teachers begin to grow you still can join free #edtech20 #edchat http://bit.ly/9y8HTO

PAitken:  Are the summer holidays detrimental to student achievement/learning? http://bit.ly/abRpgP

coopsjd:  What makes kids do good work? http://bit.ly/d2RbMi

DUMACORNELLUCIA: Facebook group for inclusion of SEN students http://bit.ly/9FLro9

(#edchat topics seem to be getting a bit more jargon-y. IYO does this inhibit participation/learning?)

Christopher Rogers is a Language Arts and Theatre teacher in Morrisville, NY. He is also the technology coordinator/integration specialist for his district. Since beginning his education blog, EdTechSwami a little over a year ago he has become very involved in the social media teacher’s movement happening all over the world. Find him on Twitter, @MrR0g3rs.

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!

August 27, 2010

How to be a good language student! 10 suggestions

My wonderful teacher workshop group

I have been teaching quite a few students over the summer and was interested to see how they each approached the process of language learning. All of them worked hard and made progress and were delightful to teach and work with but analysing their preparedness and study methods gave me some insights into what sort of things seem to work well.  

Carolina from Italy



Learning styles  

As teachers and learners we know that different people have different preferences and styles when it comes to studying.  I see, as a teacher, where I need to adapt my choice of material or style to suit different students. Things which work fantastically well with one student might fall completely flat with another.  We read much about learning styles and it is true that we learn differently but I feel it is also true that not all learning is necessarily fun and exciting and it is important to take the rough with the smooth. In terms of language in particular, a certain amount has to be repetitive and recycling, revisiting is very important. Regular practice is also important. Some tried and tested methods do work and it is a case of finding the most suitable way of utilising these. Whether pen and paper, iPhone or laptop is our preferred tool is unimportant as long as students get the results!  

Student behaviour  

Some students are methodical and very organised. They bring a book, stationery, dictionary etc with the to the lessons and they organise their work. Some arrange their book/folder according to the different topics (grammar, reading, vocabulary etc..) and sometimes even colour-code everything for ease of revision. They review the day’s work and come to the next lesson prepared with questions.  

Suzanna from Germany

Others prefer a more ‘learn by osmosis’ approach they like to absorb the language by being immersed in it through the lesson. They don’t record a great deal (perhaps anything they haven’t heard before) and react in a more emotional way with the language. They may not be so systematic in their learning but they like to extend their exposure to language and will be likely to watch TV or read a newspaper or magazine often bringing elements of this experience to the lesson.  

Many students have a half and half approach. The dangers of being only type one is that you may be restricting yourself to a narrow range of language and those taking the second path may be exposed to too much for it to be absorbed. However all approaches are legitimate and in the end it is a matter of ‘horses for courses’. However, whatever your learning style, I do think it is worth considering using some tried and tested methods to enhance your learning experience  

So, from my ‘straw poll’ over this summer, I have extracted 10 things which I observed that I feel all language learners could use to improve their study  

  1. Do make sure you have something to record new items of language (notebook, netbook etc)
  2. Don’t rely solely on your memory.
  3. Do make sure you have access to a dictionary (get one on your phone then you can access it wherever you are).
  4. Don’t miss the opportunity to pick up new words and check their meaning.
  5. Do go over the day’s lesson, make a note of anything you don’t understand ready to ask your teacher at the next lesson.
  6. Don’t  be afraid to ask your teacher to go over things or explain things again – it’s an opportunity to make sure everything is clear before moving on.
  7. Do watch TV in English if you have the chance. If you are in the UK it’s a good way to engage with the culture and make sure you are immersing yourself in the language – TV is an invaluable language resource.
  8. Don’t feel that you have to understand everything. Relax and enjoy the experience, if you can get a good overview of the conversation or TV programme that might be enough (then, as in No 6, ask your teacher the next lesson).
  9.  Do write a learner diary – a few lines after each day’s experience will not only give you a lovely record of your course, but it is also an interesting and personal way to make a record of your learning. This can be useful for language recycling and sharing with teachers and/or classmates.
  10. Do enjoy your learning experience – something you enjoy and are absorbed in will be both successful and valuable.

Thank you to all my students this year who gave me the chance to observe their learning and the opportunity to pass some of their ideas on to you.

For more on learning strategies you might like to look at the following posts.

Creating a teacher workshop

Business English – what is it you really need to learn?

An A to Z of effective language practice

How to keep motivated in language learning

Preparing for language exams

August 20, 2010

Are Staff Meetings Salvageable?


8-17-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST 


Thank you to Pernille Ripp (@4thGrdTeach) for this week’s #Edchat summary. This week’s topic was one that crops up often in #edchat and one which we all like to moan about!! Pernille has done a great job in condensing and encapsulating everybody’s thoughts on this, at times tricky, relationship within education. See her bio at the end which is, I must say, very modest – Pernille is a great asset to edchat and her blog is well worth a read!!

Being an avid fan and participant of #edchat, I was thrilled at first when I was asked to write this week’s summary of our noon conversation on August 17th; How can administrators better structure school meetings to be more productive?  And then when I realized what the topic was my joy quickly turned to dread.  After all, this was one of the most non-informative #Edchat’s I had participated in this summer.  I mean, how many ways can we really change how administration schedules meetings?  Besides, why would they listen to our ideas?  And yet, this thought was exactly why this was a valid conversation to have, particularly as most of North America is getting ready to return to school.  So I thought back to my own experience; as a novice teacher I was always excited about staff meetings, after all, these were meeting where our successes would be shared, professional development would be highlighted and stimulating conversation would be had.  3 years into teaching and I have become one of the outwardly shoulder-shruggers, eye-rollers, paper-doodlers and all around none-to-thrilled about the whole administration meeting.  In fact,  if you ever want to please the staff at my school you let them know that this week’s staff meeting has been cancelled.  So when does this change in excitement occur?  When did I go from doe-eyed meeting enthusiast to uninspired tuner-outer? 

    Turns out that I am not the only one so jaded by staff meetings and the sort, fortunately, I am not the only one either that wishes it would change.  As #Edchat has proven before; there are many of us that want to change the world; one conversation at a time.  The lackluster appeal of staff meetings is not my principal’s fault; I wish it was.  Then I could blame him and feel better about my own attitude towards them.  It is a staff effort to kill a professional meeting.  To do it you must have certain ingredients in place such as whispered conversations, lack of agenda, limited follow through, and overall stressful teaching days.  I do not think that any staff sets out to arrive here, but once at this dead-end destination, those staff meetings can be hard to resuscitate.  My staff went through somewhat of a revival last year, in which, more people took responsibility for our meetings and protocol was set.  This was a huge step in the right direction and something many #Edchatters expressed a hope for.  Now instead of getting away with bringing work, we are expected to be attentive and focused.  Instead of having side conversations, we are asked to be quiet and raise our hands to participate in the topic at hand.  Agendas are no longer cloaked in secrecy but rather shared and open to suggestions.  Time is now honored and my principal no longer, and never did, expect us to stay beyond the 45 minutes.  And yet, we are not there yet.  Staff meetings are still not celebrated or heralded as learning opportunities but viewed as yet another responsibility in our already overwhelming days.  In fact, this was a recurring theme in our #Edchat.  Many participants asked for time limits to be set so that they knew exactly how long the meeting would last.  They also asked for a chance at professional development from this time, and not from outsiders, but a chance for staff within their building to share something they were doing or learning.  We often discuss how little time we have to share, why not take the time at these meetings?  Many suggested keeping announcements out of staff meetings and sending them out via email instead; an idea I wholeheartedly agree with.  I would rather read about the new changes at school, particularly when it is not open for discussion, rather than have someone drone on about the why’s and how’s of it all.  One fantastic idea, was to create a backchannel for the meeting, whether using Facebook or Twitter, but providing some sort of means to give a running commentary while the meeting happened, much like you see happen during Elluminate presentations.  This would also work as a tool to draw all staff members in and for everyone to feel valued and listened to.  Although, this would be ideal for me, I am from a school where I am one of the only ones on Twitter.  So to convince a whole staff to not only join Twitter, to use it, and then to use it during staff meetings can seem like a mountain of obstacles and yet it does happen in schools.  How though is still being debated.

    So are staff meetings headed the way of the fax machine?  We still need them once in a while but really do we have to meet face-to-face?  I would argue that staff meetings are vital to a school’s success.  It is an instant read of how engaged its staff is, as well as how the climate is.  There is nothing that can beat a room full of staff members engaged in a conversation.  Yet the format is clearly not a success in most schools.  Many people mentioned the negative attitudes that would be brought into meetings and seemed rather desperate to quiet them.  And I agree, nothing can harm the morale of a staff more than one person’s negative outbursts.  The same can be said for when select few dominate the conversation, rather than making it a full staff discussion.  Technology, though, does provide us with some tools to create better learning environments, as we see in our classrooms.  However, just like in our classrooms we must take ownership of the meetings and create the type of environment we would like to be taught in.  We ask our students to do this ,so why is it as adults that we do not hold ourselves accountable?  Whether it be a back channel, a protocol or simply renewed energy; keep in mind that you are the controller of a staff meeting as far as  that your energy for that meeting is replicated and mirrored by those sitting around you.  So although we may feel haggard after another full day of teaching, bring that love of teaching and learning into your staff meeting and do not let other’s stop you either.  One person can make a difference as we all know, and you are not alone in wanting a better environment for staff overall.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • Keep housekeeping items out of staff meetings and email them instead.
  • Create a backchannel for staff to be involved in
  • Make it a forum of professional development
  • Give staff choices in what they participate in
  • Adopt a protocol for proper meeting behavior
  • Keep negative attitudes out of meetings
  • Set a time limit for how long someone can speak to ensure equal opportunity for joining the discussion

Here is a selection of some of the comments: 

 With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@cpoole27:   Meetings could consist of admin/peers sharing in small groups what they have learned from their PLN and new ideas researched 
@miken_bu:   Start by only holding meetings when needed, not for info that can be given in other ways 
@Demerica:   Meetings should be differentiated and give teachers choices. Did this with PD time at my school this year with good results
@DeronDurflinger:   I think admin. meetings need to focus on learning instead of management stuff
@hblanton:   Don’t read things to staff members, give them the info ahead of time, then make the meeting a dialogue with specific goals. 
@cybraryman1:   Meetings & trainings should have a menu of choices for staff members after general staff announcements
@chris_reuter:   Most effective mtgs r when teachers/kids share what is going on and admin play a 2ndary role.
@TomWhitby:   Admins need to employ Tech to convey Management stuff in order to cocentrate on Learning issues for F2F Meetings.
@billgx:   A meeting consisting primarily of people tooting their own horn is usually not productive. #edchat 
@cybraryman1:   Meetings should follow the unconference structure where you can pick a session rather than being bored in general session #edchat 
@esolcourses:  lack of inclusion in the decision-making process can sometimes lead to disaffection 
@SuzanBrandt:   So excited that my administrators are referring to faculty meetings as “Learning Meetings”
@Nunavut_Teacher:   My principal gives teachers the opportunity at specific meetings to present on a topic they are passionate about. Love that.
@MissCheska:   Admin should set up standard that for every gripe there must be a solution offered, re: preventing gripes
@ColinTGraham:   Local schools must have faced or be facing similar issues/problems. Why not set up inter-school teams to discuss/ present/share?
@tomwhitby:   As in a class if you engage the participants of the Mtg they will pay attention.
@arosey:  Hard for some admin, but “control” of meeting must be given up. Let us talk and interact
@TomWhitby:   If a tchr entered a class w/o a plan to engage and teach the class, the Admin would be upset. Should we expect less of the admin? 
@patriciasmeyers:   Every voice must be respected in order for meetings to work 
@mritzius:  Meetings of larger groups should have a “Parliamentarian”, keeping the talk focused on topic and knocking people off soapboxes
@tomwhitby: Conducting a productive meeting should be a required skill of all admins. It needs to be modeled and taught. 


I would ask that the following question is added to the poll next week:

  • Does homework have a true benefit to learning?

To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

As ever, there were some great links shared:

web20classroom:  Awesome List From @cybraryman1 Of All Educational Chats on Twitter: http://bit.ly/cT3cyO

DeronDurflinger:  Sample of “faculty meeting” from my wiki http://bit.ly/ayD99m

hadleyjf:   “Tempering the Pull of the ‘Urgent” – Thoughts about multitasking and students: http://bit.ly/8GamLb

isteconnects:  New Post: A Brief Review of Course Management Tools for Educators http://bit.ly/9R1pE0

cybraryman1:  @DeronDurflinger Got to love Van Meter – THINK, LEAD and SERVE http://bit.ly/aCdHMx

ColinTGraham:  Since more and more schools seem to be turning into small businesses… http://bit.ly/bQK0YD  business meeting tips may help! #edchat

shamblesguru:  Screencast of #edchat happening live PART2 still unscripted, unrehearsed, unedited #shambles #edtech http://screenr.com/QR0

Nunavut_Teacher:  Keep the meeting on schedule. http://nextup.info/ #edchat

TwitClass:  @ImagineLearning Yes! @DeronDurflinger uses a wiki at #vanmeter http://bit.ly/ayD99m  #edchat

cybraryman1:  @heoj My Skype page: http://bit.ly/aQNA10  #edchat

nancyrubin:  Is the Backchannel the Future or the Present? http://t.co/q196uTg #edchat

cybraryman1:  Do I see Backchanneling in meetings in all schools in the future? Backchannel page: http://bit.ly/cv6H7t  #edchat

mritzius:  David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and Seth Godin’s blog should be required reading for leaders of meetings #edchat

fisher1000:  @tomwhitby #edchat There’s a good book about that very thing here: http://tinyurl.com/2d96qek

cybraryman1:  Professional Development page (the good, the bad, the ugly!) http://bit.ly/bOj5Sv #edchat

RushaSams:  Book rec: School Leadership That Works by Marzano. #edchat

isteconnects:   New Post: A Brief Review of Course Management Tools for Educators http://bit.ly/9R1pE0 #iste #edchat

ColinTGraham: Interesting video produced by New Brunswick Dept of Ed http://youtu.be/EjJg9NfTXos  21st Century Education #ukedchat #edtech #edchat

esolcourses:  @PrimaryEdTech @thompseg: You can use Google Calendar to share events http://bit.ly/aEQe8  #elemchat #edtech #edchat #edcamp

web20education:  Next Gen project #edtech20 http://nextgenlearning.com/get-involved/ideas/30 #edchat #elearning

esolcourses:  Good article on how to cut the dead wood out of meetings – Meetings Google-style http://bit.ly/cDcY52  #edchat

marynabadenhors:  Quick read on running effective meetings http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/RunningMeetings.htm

graingered: #Edchat http://bit.ly/9pruU2  5th gr wiki, http://bit.ly/98DjVz  tech wiki

graingered:  @ShellTerrell http://mattievolunteers.wikispaces.com / 4 volunteers… membership request required #edchat

shamblesguru: #backchanneling at any meeting,not just ‘staff’, is liberating http://bit.ly/9NjL49  #edchat #edtech

kylepace:   A Framework For Teaching With Twitter…http://ow.ly/2qNXU

ShellTerrell:  Has #Edchat made an impact on your teaching or learning experience? Plz let us know http://bit.ly/aQ0RQd

Pernille Ripp (@4thGrdTeach) is a 4th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin who is constantly amazed at the brilliance of her students.  Married to her soul mate who is a a closet-teacher, she continues her learning journey this year with the Global Read Aloud Project as well as breaking down classroom expectations and starting all over in a 4/5 class.  She has won no awards and been given no accolades other than the lightbulb moments her students share with her every day.  When inspiration hits she writes for her own blog, Blogging through the 4th Dimension and overall just loves her life.  

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!

August 16, 2010

Will online or distance learning replace classroom learning?


8-10-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST 

Online, offline or both?

We are very grateful to Todd Hoffman (@ToddAHoffman) for this week’s guest summary. He is well-qualified to write about this topic with both his academic and work background. I am sure you will find it a well-rounded and insightful piece. Thank you Todd! (see bio at end of piece)

The weekly #edchat is an event I always make an effort to attend.  Those of you who regularly join in the chat know its value and have benefited from its existence.  So when I was approached to write this week’s summary to a topic very close to home for me I was thrilled.  I am a former classroom teacher who now works for an educational software company and recently finished my master’s degree online.  On top of that the company I work for is shifting its professional development model from in person to either a blended or online only solution.  These changes cause uneasy feelings in many well qualified employees and a fear that technology will replace human workers.  But can online or distance learning replace classroom learning?
As in government, change in education is like driving a barge- It’s not quick or easy.  People get set in their ways and resist change for fear it will replace them.  If technology is part of the change process the level of concern seems to heighten.  However, shying away from change can ultimately lead to ignorance and a lack of preparation for the world in which we live.  Educators have a goal of preparing students for the world of today and tomorrow, not the world of the 20th Century.  In the 21st Century our world has become more technologically adept and the desire for flexible work schedules is greater than ever.  All educators and parents want the best educational opportunities for their kids and in our world that requires some innovation.  While most edchatters seemed to agree that online learning is a valuable addition to classroom learning most agree that it will not be a replacement for more traditional learning.  The consensus seems to be a blended solution where online learning opportunities are combined with classroom learning.  Additionally, many edchatters commented on the secondary benefit to classroom learning of childcare.  Many edchatters stressed that online learning must become an integral part of the educational system to provide flexibility and extension to traditional classroom learning.  More people are working on online degrees today than ever before and the use of social media has spread to almost every industry.  A good opportunity for educators to better understand the value of online education is through developing a PLN on twitter.  Discussions such as #edchat help educators, parents, and students to discuss effective ways of integrating educational technology into the classroom.

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  •          Schools operate as childcare so parents can work
  •          Students learn differently
  •          Online learning can provide flexibility to students and families
  •          Online learning can be structured
  •          Face to face learning is important for child development
  •          Good Online learning requires skill and preparation
  •          Blended Solutions can provide excellent learning opportunities

Here is a selection of some of the comments: 
With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@TechCzech: If schooling were about learning, distance learning might replace classroom. But K-12 schools have an important childcare function

@Parantella: I think we have to be willing to think outside the classroom while also remembering some students learn best F2F #edchat

@cfanch: I’ve taken online classes post grad and loved them but I just don’t see it happening any time soon for K-12 #edchat

 @drdouggreen: Parents can be more involved with online classes #edchat

@isteconnects: I teach at the college level and find the f2f invaluable. Kids are away from home for the 1st time. They need the guidance

@shellterrell: I don’t think online learning will replace face to face but I do see the potential in a blended structure! #Edchat

@cybraryman1: I favor the combination of learning in a classroom with the ability to access great online learning as well.

 @TheNerdyTeacher: #edchat – Independent Studies would work great online for students who want a class but it doesn’t fit their schedule.

 @melanie289: In my rural state, online learning is the only opportunity many of our students have to access advanced courses in h.s. #edchat

 @jksuter: Who would replace teachers as the parent’s free babysitters if school went totally online, 4 this reason alone it will never happen. #edchat

 @RMHS_AP: Online learning should be used to enhance the traditional classroom and to differentiate instruction, not replace f2f #edchat

@1katty: We are offering online alternatives to our high school students to broaden the diversity of our curriculum. #edchat

@bethanyvsmith: I think teaching online is not only harder, it requires twice as much prep time. You can’t “wing” online teaching #edchat

@courosa: Every educator should have opportunity 2 teach AND learn online. Much is learned about f2f practice from such experiences. #edchat

@Mamacita: hybrid classes are awesome for ALL TYPES OF STUDENTS: actual contact AND own pace. #edchat

@lemino: I think online shouldn’t be just an emergency solution, it should work side by side with class, or even in-class. #edchat

@billgx Most: recent studies appear to show positives for online learning. Gains seem to be highest w/ blended (F2F + online) #edchat

To follow the complete discussion see here 
For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

As ever, there were some great links shared:

malcolmbellamy:  it is the quality of the f2f that counts see http://bit.ly/b4zndc

tony_valderrama:  No today’s topic, but interesting: 15 mind blowing facts of the internet: http://bit.ly/cr3qe0

jamesmaitland: #edchat I have just posted a video (5min) quick idea of a school social media communication system. http://bit.ly/d4V4Z2

NextGenLC:  Blended learning forum: http://ow.ly/2nBEf  Share thoughts, insights

briankotts:  College May Become Unaffordable for Most – variety of approaches include distance learning | NYTimes http://nyti.ms/cW4fQO

schoology:  Blending Online learning & F2F, check out the list of all these features: http://ht.ly/2nBF4 Brings the digital classroom alive!

ShellTerrell:  tony_valderrama: and a lot of learning in games, like World of Warcraft and others: http://bit.ly/9DaaCa

carlaarena:  @ShellTerrell just recorded some ideas for a friend on #blendedlearning last week http://bit.ly/bEEk3U

ryflinn:  I am still distracted trying to learn online on #edchat here is what is going on now http://tweetphoto.com/38079332

CatMoore: Why you want to use scenarios in your elearning http://bit.ly/82Eg7p

alexgfrancisco:  Online Pedagogy: Theories & Best Practices http://bit.ly/bC0iNX

Giegerich:  short video of technology in our school made spring of last year (not online learning per se) http://youtu.be/P2gqD2rayzA

ToughLoveforX:  @tellio Just one of many examples Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media http://ilnk.me/3b4d Just replace “student” for patient

anicap: @mzmacky past wiki projects http://bit.ly/aZLKwdhttp://bit.ly/bkVvychttp://bit.ly/c7SHSl  #edchat #IDEC

NextGenLC:  Blended learning forum: http://ow.ly/2nBEf  Share thoughts, insights

rgallwitz:  Teaching in the 21st Century ( http://bit.ly/bzGtvn ) This is why I dearly love the blended model. The Networked Student

vicmiclovich:  95,000 students enrolled at Tunisian Virtual University http://bit.ly/ap5L4A  via @etaalim #edchat #edtech (via @briankotts)

anicap: Look at this glogster “New classroom rules” for online learning. http://bit.ly/b1qKDx  My EFL sts like them a lot. Some more, too.

ukedchat:  #ukedchat special this week, “promoting parental engagement” Thurs 8-9pm BST. Details at http://bit.ly/dioccX hosted by @ianaddison

alexgfrancisco: Online Pedagogy: Theories & Best Practices http://bit.ly/bC0iNX

NCTI2:  Important in this discussion to remember stud w/ disabilities. online can be great way of differ instruct #edchat http://ow.ly/2nCAq

alexgfrancisco:  how to implement and customize course and specific guidelines on each learning activity #techtips #edchat http://bit.ly/aSV7d

web20education:  Free project in the clouds for teachers around the world #edtech20 and Gr8 beautiful tag clouds in education2.0 http://bit.ly/dkrCd6

alexgfrancisco:  Instructional Strategies Online http://bit.ly/97ObWV

alexgfrancisco:  The Lecture is Dead Long Live the e-Lecture http://bit.ly/aLv1Vr

Aminhotep:  Tips for teachers: What are you really teaching? Find the real message in your medium http://wp.me/ptcfd-30

briankotts:  Why Online Education Needs to Get Social http://bit.ly/9MNw4o via @mashable

ToughLoveforX:  @tomwhitby @DrAshCasey “Online teaching is in it’s infancy” [ My 2¢ rigorous evidenced based teaching also ] http://ilnk.me/3778

web20education:  Glossary to DEMYSTIFY the jargon of the online world”: A Glossary to DEMYSTIFY the jargon http://url4.eu/6p9QJ

ShellTerrell: Many of us can get a free online learning experience & compare by doing MIT Course, etc. http://bit.ly/duXKzL

OERCommons: @melanie289 There are experimental programs with Open Study to add interactivity to the MIT Courses #edchat: http://openstudy.com

OERCommons: Teachers have had success combining subjects that can be boring i.e. accounting w/ online world Second Life #edchat: http://bit.ly/6EteVw

cathig:  The best free online classes I’ve taken are at HP Learning Center. Pick one with Enroll. #edchat http://h30187.www3.hp.com/all_courses.jsp

MultiMartin:  RT new blog post – Using Twitter in the Primary Classroom (@ClassroomTweets) – http://bit.ly/bVIMuG

Todd Hoffman (@ToddAHoffman)

Bio Teacher turned Consultant working to find innovative solutions to issues in education.

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!


August 12, 2010

Creating a teacher workshop

The idea of  deepening and expanding learning by living and studying together is something which has underpinned education for many years and can be seen in many different cultures. The UK boarding school and university systems were created under this principle and many other educational systems through time have seen the value of this shared way of life. With this in mind,  I set out to create a teacher development workshop for a small group of practising teachers.   

The workshops would last for a week, bring together 6 teachers to explore, share and learn. I created a rudimentary timetable which I hoped would give us a basis from which to begin our short, learning journey but which would be broad enough to allow us to travel in any direction we desired during the week.   

I also wanted to have a focus away from, yet related to English language teaching which could help to develop our own personal language and  have local flavour. I chose the Bronte novels. I grew up very near Bronte country and had always enjoyed both the place and the novels. They are universally known, great stories to read and discuss and we could also look at the place of literature in the English language classroom. We would read/re-read our favourites before the workshop, discuss them, visit Howarth, take the walk in the surrounding moors and then watch the films in the evenings.   

The land of the Brontes

Everything was in place and now the only thing was to see who (if anybody) might be interested in such an experience! I have to admit to a lack of research on the matter and I went ahead feeling that as this was something I would love to do then there may be others who would too!   

Fortunately I was right and in June I had my group. Three were teachers from my twitter PLN (Eva, Culya and Alex) and two I knew personally (Blanca and Merces). I was thrilled and very excited about bringing all of these teachers together. In the end Merces wasn’t able to join us but the others were intrepid even though the trip to Yorkshire required a train journey from London!   


 On Sunday evening August 1st we were finally together!   

Hard at work!

For the rest of the week we shared experiences, ideas, knowledge, camaraderie and food.   

We looked at grammar and skills and explored ways of moving all of these online using an amazing array of tools shown to us by Alex and Eva. We explored humour, some weird and wonderful vocabulary, quirky ideas for class activities and of course those brooding Bronte novels.   

On the first night I realised that my DVD purchase of  Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tennant of Wildfell Hall was not, as I had though three films but the BBC series comprising over 10 hours of footage!! Undaunted we decided to give it a whirl and set out to watch all of the episodes through the week. It was a bit of a race to the end but we managed it staying up until midnight each evening ploughing through each story.   

The advantage of the BBC series was that we were presented with more of the story and particularly with Wuthering Heights, which we all hated, we saw more of the dark truth behind the novels than we would have done with a shorter film version. It turned out to be a very intense and emotional engagement with the stories.   


At Home with the Brontes

The Bronte walk (which was longer than anticipated) gave us a good feel for the place and we were delighted by their house yet saddened by their plight.   

Bronte Bridge and Waterfall

There were unexpected bonuses too! We had Spanish peppers and Turkish shepherd’s salad for lunch. Turkish coffee and Turkish delight during our shared edchat session, a delightful Madeira wine for aperitif and of course, afternoon tea! We were even invited to a local organic farm for a tour and to sample Yorkshire specialities.   

Alex the Horse Whisperer

Alex fell in love with our sheepdog Maguire and took him off for walks (although at times it was not certain who was taking whom!) Our other little dog, Duffy, who is less of a handful, trotted along with the others as they explored the local countryside.   


It was a unique experience and I hope everyone agrees. To hear an account straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, see Eva’s beautiful piece ‘Far Far Away From The Madding Crowd‘ and  Teacher Workshops. Alex’s fantastic account Amazing Stories of Sharing  and Culya’s lovely summary of the experience The Adventure of my Life. Eva made a Glogster too!

A Visit to a pub - naturally!

For me it was a rich and rewarding experience and it proved a point:  

 if you take a group of dedicated and committed  teachers and place them around a table real or virtual, they will grow and learn together.

 English language students can come and stay with me for immersion courses all year round – one to one or in groups of up to 4 people (come with colleagues or friends).  Our next Teacher Workshop  is scheduled for January.

August 8, 2010

Is there a Place for Smartphones as Mobile Learning Devices in Schools?


8-3-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST 

Make sure your smartphones are TURNED ON!!

Here is an amazing #edchat summary this week from Tara Benwell (@ESL-Library) which explores, very comprehensively, the feelings and opinions of last week’s edchatters on this thorny problem. The discussion was at times polarised and at times consensual and this is really captured in Tara’s summary. For more information on Tara and her work see the bio at the end of the post. 

 With ESLlibrary’s main tweeter on mat leave I was excited to jump in to #edchat on August 2nd to discuss smartphones as mobile learning devices. I was thrilled when Berni approached me about writing the summary for this edu chat since it is closely tied to my current work as an online educator and material writer. Having recently worked on the iPhone app “Learning English with The New York Times,” I’ve found myself wondering whether or not these types of learning resources are being used in class or primarily as self-access materials. With apps, writers and developers are heading into a whole new field and I’m feeling like a beginner again.  This edchat confirmed for me that it is crucial for writers, developers and publishers to participate in conversations with teachers (and students). You are telling us what you and your students need, why you need it, and whether or not we are building the tools and resources in ways that are actually going to save you time and keep your learners engaged. The fact that we can be part of this conversation together is so important and we thank you for inviting us in. 
 It wasn’t long ago that I was skeptical about mobile devices taking over the world. I had finally gotten used to the fact that TVs and computer monitors had to be big enough to take over my entire living room when the newsflash arrived that we NEEDED a netbook. Wait, no. Too big! Now we need an iPhone or at least an iTouch, plus we’ll need an iPad if we’re going to stay on top of this technology. It wasn’t until I got my hands on an actual iPhone that I began to understand why and how these devices could be so useful for students. At the Boston TESOL conference, teachers came by ESL-Library’s booth to inquire about the new language learning apps. Some of the teachers took out their iPhones and spent the $2.99 on the spot for the new Conversation Spanish app. Within moments they had a full course of Spanish in their phones (which they were thankful for as their bags were loaded down with textbooks). It’s obvious that apps are convenient for self-study, but what about in the classroom? According to the teachers at Tuesday’s edchat, apps are extremely useful in class. Teachers who have the privileged permission to use mobile devices in the classroom talked about using them for live polls, for digital story-telling, for texting, and teaching skills (such as mapping) in a more engaging way. But truthfully, as one teacher reminded us, there are many more teachers (mainly those who are not involved in edchat) who do not want mobile devices in the classroom than those who do. They have several concerns. Devices can cause distraction. They can be used for cheating (or finding sites that are non-educational). Many schools don’t have the funds or the wifi. Furthermore, teachers don’t have time to fit extra lessons or activities into their standards-based schedule, even if it would keep the kids from falling asleep in their textbooks. But alas, times are changing, and as another wise tweeter responded, calculators (once questioned for similar reasons) will soon be a thing of the past. As educators of today we mustn’t forget that the teens who are attached to their phones are our next generation of teachers. For many of us, myself included, they will be the teachers of our own children.   
One of the reasons why I believe that mobile devices are here to stay is that the youth in this world really do expect things to be quick and accessible. They want fast Internet and dinner on the table after homework, before soccer, but not when The Bachelor is on because they’re getting too many texts about it.  Despite my involvement in developing apps for English learners, I had assumed wrongly that most learners would use these apps for self-study, on-the-go sessions in between other priorities. Today’s discussion opened my eyes to the possibilities of students and teachers using mobile phones inside the classrooms. This knowledge will change how I think of the content and functionality for the next app that I help build. As one wise tweeter mentioned, these devices are already in their backpacks. Rather than coming up with new rules and punishments, it  is our duty as educators of the mobile generation to address the skeptics and find solutions to the concerns of using mobile devices in the classroom. I agree with @markbrumley who tweeted, “I think mobile devices in the classroom are inevitable. In 10 yrs this discussion will be silly! “ 

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion:  

  • Admin is more interested in banning and punishing the use of mobile devices than exploring possibilities 
  • Mobile devices don’t have to be phones 
  • Real concerns include cost of devices, text plans, access to wifi, equal opportunity, finding quality apps with appropriate content 
  • Apps for certain subjects such as geography, language learning, math are extremely useful
  • Teachers use mobile devices for vocabulary review, polls, cameras, gps, mapping, dictionaries 
  • Question of who should own the devices used in class. Student or School?
  • Will mobile devices make life easier for cheaters?
  • Mobile devices as an inevitable tool in the future classroom (the new calculator debate)
  • Plenty of opportunities for keeping youth interested in education 
  • Mobile devices offer classroom management tools for teachers

Here is a selection of some of the comments:  

@MrROg#rs:  #edchat if admins r scared of phones, remove phone argument. say ipad, ipod, netbook other mobile tech
@SECottrell:   I was told “don’t hold your breath” re: the hopeless tech ban at my school. 3 demerits if I see the phone, 5 if it rings. 
@Ron_Peck:  @CrudBasher What if they can’t afford the cell service and don’t have one?  
@cybraryman1:   Need to first have a policy on use of Smartphones in classroom that is set by students, teachers, admin and parents. 
@cwilkeson:   our administration is so focused on punishing students who possess a smartphone, how can we turn them into learning tools? 
@cpoole27:   We make Our students “turn themselves off” when they come to school, they turn of their phones, their computers, their tech… 
@mrdfleming:   Maybe lots of people are from much richer areas – to me using smartphones in class is just another way to have uneven playing field 
@cpoole27 :  @olafelch they loved the instant feedback, the collaboration with other students, and the lack of pressure in discussing topics 
@CrudBasher:  Smart phones are basically computers, so yes I think every child should have a computer. 
@ColinTGraham:   Much of the discussion around smartphone use reminds me of the introduction of calculators to the maths class, 30 years ago 
@olafelsch:   @ColinTGraham Don’t see the link between smartphones and calculators. The access issue is key here. 
@Folmerica:  Camera function on most smartphones makes the so valuable as a student creation tool. 
@CrudBasher:   Once every child has a smartphone, classrms change from teacher-centric to student-centric. #revolution 
@Ron_Pech:   So how do we avoid students using the phones for socializing instead of instruction? 
@chrismayoh:   If school does not own the device is it more difficult to protect children and impose sanctions for improper use? 
@joe_bower :  @Ron_Peck we dont teach kids not to socialize but rather we teach them to learn by socializing. Like we are now. 
@joe_bower:   Why r tchrs horrified by prospect that kids socialize with technology. How popular would #edchat be if we didn’t socialize while lrning?
@tony_valdrerama:   Maybe we need to develop material (lesson plans, etc.) that include smart phones as a central part of the lesson, a needed tool 
@SECottrell:   Cheating is a character issue that won’t be solved by taking away effective tools 
@MatthiasHeil:  In order to keep cost at zero, there needs to be sufficient Wifi at schools!  (absolutely!)
@Folmerica:  I’m worried that the focus on this type of technology will widen the gap between the haves and the have nots. 
@CrudBasher:  Creating apps is getting easier and cheaper. It’ll be in the hands of teachers soon! 
@ryflinn:  #edchat my kinder students are like teachers they love to have the technology in their little fingers
@regparsons: Presenter at ISTE had a gr8 idea: Have kids make a list of all ways a smartphone can enhance learning. Can’t remember who? 
@ruddler: #edchat Cellphones can be useful. The problem is that the teachers that do not want them in school are louder than those that do.
@Ron_Peck: Bottom line we need to move this technology from the backpacks to the tables and integrate them into our lessons. 
@Mamacita: Why not allow students to use whichever method they want? Books, electronics. . . as long as they’re on the same “page.” heh 
@gbengel: Smartphones are a small window to the world for our students. It connects them, socializes them, teaches them, informs them 
@ESLlibrary: What about apps for homework? Surely there would be less resistance. 
@HPTeachExchange: PEW reserach shows smartphones very prevalent in low socio-economic areas. Small digital divide with mobile? 
@CrudBasher: @kalinagoenglish: #edchat With wireless video u can hook up phone to larger screen. Coming soon!


To follow the complete discussion see here  

For the stats on #edchat participation see here  

As ever, there were some great links shared: 

@ShellTerrell Forest Meet Digital Trees  

@chrismayoh iPod touch project  

@ColinTGraham Minorities Favor Phones in using Web 

@ConsultantsE  8yr olds using smart phones 

@muppetmasteruk MILK 

@rliberni  German Collection of Phone Usage in Classroom 

@drtimony Joo Joo 

@DJ345  Synching apps to several ipods 

@cybraryman1  Cellphones in the Classroom Resources 

@briankotts  The Future of Learning is Informal and Mobile 

@tony_valderrama An Example of Cellphones for teaching Math 

@briankotts Teens and their mobile phones 

@briankotts   Time to leave the lap top behind 

@jackiegerstein Taking IT Mobile Youth Mobile Phones and Social Change 

@SISQITMAN: http://learninginhand.com 

@ESLLibrary  Top 10 Interesting iPhone/iPod Touch apps for ELL 

@TwitClass Wiffiti 

@ShellTerrell  101 best Android Apps for Education 

Tara Benwell is a freelance writer who specializes in online materials for the ELT industry. She works part-time as a content developer and media consultant for Red River Press.com. Tara maintains ESL-Library’s blog, podcast, and newsletter and helps out with the mobile learning division, The English App. She is also the administrator of MyEC, where she creates monthly writing challenges for English learners and explores the challenges of teaching English in an e-community. 


New to Edchat

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts! 

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.  

What do you think? Leave a comment!

August 2, 2010

The Best Kept Secrets of EduBloggers, Part 3 by Karenne Sylvester

Filed under: Guest posts — rliberni @ 11:30 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Wow!! I am really thrilled to be ‘hosting’ part 3 in Karenne’s amazing blog series! 

Karenne is a well-known and prolific edublogger full of great ideas, thoughtful deliberation and wonderful insights into the world of EFL and the world of Edublogging in general. This is a must read series for any edublogger , whether experienced or just starting out. 

 It should inspire you to keep going if you’ve already started blogging or get going if you’re still thinking about it. 

  We would love to have your comments and don’t forget to follow the whole series!  


   Edo period Blogger Monk5. The Best EduBloggers Make Sure Their Posts Are Easy On The Eye and Easy On The Mind.


Even if your readership is made up of entirely academics,  

which it probably isn’t,  

the time the average reader is comfortable spending reading online, is generally less than 5 minutes.  

Most people tend to enjoy articles of 300-800 words unless it is immediately clear they are about to learn something completely new and interesting.  

As a general rule, readers skim through longer posts for keywords before deciding whether or not to dive in properly so try not to drone on.  

Even if you’ve written a very witty, entertaining or critical piece on a subject that your core readers generally have a marked interest in, try to stay under the 1000 word limit or they might end up clicking that back button…  

No matter how much jargon you can spout off or how many acronyms you can personally decipher, be careful about sprinkling too much of these in your text as you might turn off readers who don’t know what you’re talking about, who find all of that really intimidating. If you must, add explanations in parentheses.  

Aim to keep your writing conversational: a cross between a personal email they’ve received from a friend or colleague, a chat in the staffroom with respected teachers and neither talk down nor become a sycophant.  

Even if you secretly, secretly wish to become the James Joyce of the Edu-blogosphere, the Kazuo Ishiguro of the internet, keep that to yourself: there are many, many, many teachers who haven’t read them and for those who have, many really don’t want you to sound like that.  

Even if you want to communicate the depth, power and dynamism of Lev Vygotsky – don’t write the way he wrote. Instead try to write in your own voice, or if you must, like Sir Ken Robinson.  

Simple words communicate more and more effectively.  


Rules of thumb:  

  • Make your text snappy.
  • Write as if you know who you are writing to.
  • Do not write to get loved.
  • Get to the thrust of your point quickly.
  • Use the active voice.
  • The words “we” and “you” are much more inclusive than the word “I”.
  • Encourage your audience’s participation in your conversation by asking them for their opinions.
  • Present no more than three main points.
  • Break paragraphs into chunks of less than five lines.
  • Use bullet points when offering a lot of densely packed instruction.
  • Highlight keywords you want them to catch when/if they’re skimming.
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat your main points but cut redundant phrases.
  • Show, don’t just tell. Use photographs and other media to add back-story and/or proof you’ve done something in class with your students/trainees.
  • ALWAYS hyper-link to resources of authority, to the source of your original ideas; to fellow bloggers who have written on the same subject prior to your own article and whenever you mention household names.
  • Do not forget to edit.
  • Do not be afraid of white space: white space is your friend, you have as much of it as you want!

And while on the subject of white spaces, a recent poll revealed:   



6. The Top EduBloggers Write In Their Own Voices   

Many newbie bloggers are tempted to copy the style or content of popular blogs, in part because we all learned to write in the voices of other authors in school,   

the traditional way of learning writing, however,   

all that ever taught   

was how to ace exams.  

So they wind up with mirror blogs, usually about integrating technology into their classrooms.  

This is not the key.    

This is not the secret to EduBlogging success.  

Even if you are in this process, conducting experiments with web2.0 tools in your classroom and in the lessons you give, there are literally hundreds of thousands of other teachers who are doing this too: it makes you seem terribly unoriginal to be yet another writing about Wordle unless you are doing something with it that no one else has already done (use Google Blog Search to find out).  

Instead, focus on what it is you really know the most about, the learning objectives of your lessons and let the use of whatever tool you happen to have been using slip in as a side-bar, as a by-the-way.  

The biggest secret to becoming an absolutely amazing blogger is to write as you speak:   

with all its charm,  

with all its guile,  

and warmth,  

with your personal righteousness,  

your anger,  








frustration, opinionatedness, arrogance, thoughtfulness…  

Be Yourself…  

we read you to read you (not the more intelligent, polite, educated, funny you, you). As in life, the way your spoken words already attract listeners and how you initiate and spark conversations with friends so your written words will also.  


Tips & tasks:  

  • Insert photos in long articles to give readers a moment of reflection.
  • Turn much longer articles into a series of posts.
  • Record yourself reading posts out loud. Do you sound like you? Rewrite if not.
  • Inject stories of personal learning experiences and show how your readers can learn from them too – invite them to tell their own.
  • Talk to your readers not to yourself. The most important pronoun is not I, it’s you.



7. Great Edubloggers Edit Their Posts And Use Good Grammar.

It goes without saying really, doesn’t it?  

How important it is to use capitalization? Commas. The Spell-Checker. Don’t distract your audience by giving them an essay to correct. Edit your work before clicking publish. Let it sit a few hours.  

Many times when you come back to it you’ll find that entire paragraphs of redundant copy can be cut and sentences you thought you loved make absolutely no sense. Dropping this temptation will help you clean up drafts, enable you to provide outbound links to other blogger’s work which authenticates your text and will give you the new eyes that you need to find those terrible typos.  

Check published posts later the next day or week or month, there will be things you missed. Correct these.  

But don’t edit and you, a specialist Edu-Blogger might end up looking rather uneduc8d!  


is it?  

Is it that important?  

Playing with the rules can also get your articles, writing style and points noticed.  

Go on ahead and  

start paragraphs in the center of the page.  

Break up sentences if you must.  

Write overly long paragraphs followed by one  


Slip in an item of txtspeak if you happen to writing about Twitter.  

Turn prose into a poem.  

Remember, it’s your blog and we’re all participating in an  

emerging method of communication,  

so if you think you can get away with it:  

challenge accepted norms.  

After all, you can always go back to being staid and normal in the next post.  



What has been your experience? Do typos matter, do you have a friend who corrects your text for you? Do you have a good tip on finding one’s own voice? Did we miss anything in the Rules of Thumb?  

Do share your thoughts and experiences below.  

– o –  

Also read  

Prune that prose, by Gail A. Hornstein, Professor of Psychology  

Top resources to read on writing style for the internet:

Alertbox Jakob Nielson  


Image credits
Mike Licht, Notions Capital.com: Edo Period Monk Blogging  

Ian Farrell: Good Sentiment, Bad Grammar  

(c) KarenneJoySylvester, 2010. This guest post is part of a new series: Thoughts on Edu-blogging. For part 1, see Shelly Terrell’s blog and Janet Bianchini’s for part 2. Part 4 coming soon on Monika Hardy’s. Karenne is an ELT edu-blogger, a ESP:IT teacher, EdTech teacher-trainer and materials writer, originally from Grenada in the Caribbean. She currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany and blogs at Kalinago English and BusinessEnglish~5mins.  

Find her on Twitter as @kalinagoenglish.

Should we save money in education by exchanging textbooks for internet content for authentic learning?


7-28-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST


We are grateful To Jessica Kelleher (@discomfortzone) for this week’s summary and reflection on what was a very lively #edchat session. As you can tell from her twitter name, Jessica is no shrinking violet when it comes to educational matters! She has captured very well what was, on balance a very measured approach to this topic with some very interesting ideas and links. For more about Jessica see her bio at the end of the post.

Technology is great, it has enriched personal and professional lives in so many ways. For many of the educators we meet on Twitter and Ning (or other platforms), their PLN is the most important professional development. And for those people, textbooks may not even be an option for teaching and learning these days. 
Our initial answer to the proposed question could be “Yes, please!” and enthusiasts may envision themselves with bundles of money available for the newest gadgets and professional development. 
But before we chuck the books out, and put the publishing houses out of business, there is more to consider. This discussion has shown that edtech enthusiasts have concerns too.

 Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • Textbooks offer out-dated material, or become out-dated/irrelevant quickly
  • Textbooks only represent one perspective
  • Access to online technologies or computer technologies varies greatly throughout the world (equal opportunities)
  • Some teachers will struggle without a textbook, or with dynamic online environments
  • Technology is just a tool, it is not the resource
  • The necessity of information literacy and critical thinking when using online resources 
  • The increased need to collaborate 

The use of textbooks, as well as technologies varies greatly between individual educators, school districts, and countries. While some educators have not touched a textbook in years, they still are seen as a “safety net” for other teachers. In this discussion, there was mainly agreement on the first two themes.
A big problem for this shift in education is accessibility to both computers, as well as reliable internet connections. Rural areas are often at a disadvantage within the developed world, however, looking at it globally, there are massive discrepancies. 
Ability and willingness to use online resources and technology was brought up several times. Teachers unable or unwilling to leave their comfort zones to learn and experience new technologies and forms of learning, would not be happy to swap their textbooks for an ipad, but as it was also pointed out, it is those educators we need to support and continuously encourage. 
Using content available on the internet means that students, no matter what age, need to develop as critical thinkers. Without the “right answer textbook”, students, and teachers, need to know what sources are reliable, but they also have the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of perspectives. Information literacy and critical thinking already form part of the curriculum of some schools, while others still need to develop.

Lastly, I would like to comment on the theme “technology is just a tool, not a resource”. 

For me, this can be linked to some of my comments during this discussion:
  • Just because something is online, does not mean it is better than a textbook (some publishers put textbook content on their websites, including some workbook content, get a neat programmer to add some animations or similar, and sell it as their interactive content. For me, this is a FARCE! The content, and as such, the resource stays the same, but the tool changes. Same goes for ebooks!
  • There is more to the discussion than technology or textbook. People and places are amazing resources too. And while these can be accessed in person (if possible) or virtually (neat! Streetview, Skype, SecondLife), they provide other perspectives, require different skills and are much more engaging than some books.

 The last point goes back to the why and how of learning in schools. When we have definite answers to that, then we can choose engaging and authentic resources. In some of my units, people were a much more valuable and authentic resource than any book could have ever been. Seeing the marble caves of Carrara, then seeing marble processed in Pietrasanta, including a little workshop, to seeing Michelangelo’s David in Florence…. an indescribable experience. And with technology  growing, this could possibly be accessible to children all over the world at one point. 
It makes me question whether the topic for this week’s edchat was not too limited. Are our choices really just textbook or technology? No! But it helped us to start exploring the need to question the use of both. However, let’s not forget to reach beyond the tools!!

@CoachB0066: Opportunities must be based on school/students’ accessibility, cannot have an uneven playing field 

@malcolmbellamy: the idea is excellent but we then need to teach internet literacy skills to get the best results 

@easybib: the authenticity of learning depends on the resource, not necessarily the medium

@tomwhitby: Once information is recorded in a textbook it can become irrelevant. The prime sources on the internet may be constanly updated

@crystalmgrand: Teachers need to stray away from the textbooks and blackboard and work on student engagement. Be more creative

@dannymaas: Would LOVE to see > student-created wiki textbooks with multimedia & web 2.0 embeds! >> Students leading knowledge creation! 

@discomfortzone: Just because a resource is accessible online/electronically, doesn’t mean it’s better than textbook!

@leahmacvie: Teachers need more collaboration time, they also need support and facilitation. 

@discomfortzone: Tech is not the only alternative to textbook! People and places are too! Rethinking resources is important, not the tool/medium

@ShellTerrell: With tech we have opportunities to give our stdts experiences like Skyping w/ Holocaust survivor vs. just reading 

 @Nunavut_Teacher: We have to teach students how to be critical thinkers when it comes to using the web.

@ShellTerrell: Wouldn’t doing away with textbooks encourage educators to go online & perhaps develop a PLN?

@marynabadenhors: If everyone in first world uses computers and everyone in 3rd world paper, how will we communicate? Must be able to do both

@TechCzech: Many students & teachers thrive on the structure provided by textbooks. Many don’t. OERs could cater to both. Present system can’t.

@ESLlibrary: If your admin doesn’t agree, just print out the transcript of today’s #edchat.

@tcash: Think about what kinds of resources we use as professionals – domain specific – THAT’s what we should use in class -authentic 

@rosamariatorres: Want to avoid textbooks because they are “oppresive”-determine what you need to learn? How “oppresive” is Wikipedia? And mass media?

@Mamacita: Let’s not completely dismiss ANY source; let’s pick & choose & encourage students to do the same

 Here is a selection of some of the comments:

 To follow the complete discussion see here 

 For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

 As ever, there were some great links shared:

schoology:  Interesting article about e-book educatipn push http://ht.ly/2hh6F

heoj:  curious to hear if anyone’s used the NYT Learning Network for authentic learning, how it went, etc. http://nyti.ms/2WbL84

HigherEdMorning:  Facebook and grades: What’s the link? http://bit.ly/aLzyrQ

BlueSkyDrive:  should we really be branding “educated”? http://bit.ly/dt3ESu

joe_bower:  for the love of learning – The Daily Riff http://bit.ly/9lxXbD

ToughLoveforX:  I also think it’s important for this #edchat that people are aware of Verizon’s move into edu. http://ilnk.me/36ac  The others will follow.

beabitcraZEE:  @whatedsaid10 ways my thinking has changed over time. http://bit.ly/bbzk GV WAKING UP TO THE FACT THAT PEOPLE NEED TO THINK TO LEARN #edchat

briankotts:  The 21st-century textbook – O’Reilly http://oreil.ly/9Qfp7t  #edchat It’s living, interactive, participative, adaptive, and connected.

malcolmbellamy:  see the interactive textbook of CK-12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfHd1FpJXbU  TedX NYed talk #edchat

billgx:  Dan Meyer’s TED talk on Math Curriculum Makover is very relevant to this discussion. http://bit.ly/cP4GmY #edchat #TED

andycinek:  Example of digital news paper learning setup with wiki and RSS http://bit.ly/9xHARH  #edchat Please steal this idea

TechCzech:  Charles Leadbeater-Education innovation in the slums “education needs to work by pull not push.” http://bit.ly/dtIM6W  #edchat #metaphor #ted

andycinek:  Another example from my blog of RSS and wiki use for current events and indp. reading #edchat http://bit.ly/bAviaW

evemarfil:  How to create engagemt? Here you have Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation http://on.ted.com/8Tno  #edchat

ColinTGraham:  I like student blogs where they talk about their work, ask questions and get help, with teacher guiding e.g. http://bit.ly/bnsRMs  #edchat

marynabadenhors:  A new digital divide: In one class (between those who can use technology effectively, and those who can’t) http://bit.ly/bQkug1  #edchat

Schoology:  Interesting article about e-book educatipn push http://ht.ly/2hh6F  #edchat

elanaleoni:  Jumping in late to #edchat but have you all checked out CK-12? Free #opensource online textbooks: http://bit.ly/9uTdoA  Very impressive

briankotts:  Alvin Toffer and Heidi on education (material & system) Worth watching. http://youtu.be/04AhBnLk1-s  #edchat

crystalmgrand:  Wasn’t there an issue a few months back that Texas was rewriting history? VIDEO: http://ht.ly/2hiE2  #edchat

ESLlibrary:  Bookmark to read after #edchat: Vicky Saumell interview on daring to drop textbooks http://edition.tefl.net/guest/vicky-saumell/

dannymaas:  http://bit.ly/GPnX RT @olafelch More errors in encyclopedia than wikipedia #edchat (debatable, and depends on what you call an error

andycinek:  @crystalmgrand http://nyti.ms/9pMNLm  #edchat

FOSSwiki:  Jumping in late to #edchat but have you all checked out CK-12? Free #opensource online textbooks: http://bit.ly/9u… http://bit.ly/cSqUG2

andycinek:  A perfect example of how textbooks can skew information to state a belief http://nyti.ms/9pMNLm

elanaleoni:  @SheldonWordNerd This article may be helpful: How to Teach Students to Search Smart http://bit.ly/aZIhzD  #edchat

TechCzech:  Many of the ideas discussed in #edchat on role of resources were contained in the 1970s Humanities Curriculum Project: http://j.mp/brPxbl

andycinek:  I’ll teach out of a textbook or via a wikispace or a blog thanks PLN! http://bit.ly/9s8eSv  #edchat

ShellTerrell:  Don’t forget to attend the free 48 hr virtual conference #rscon10 w many members of our PLN this Fri. http://bit.ly/bIH6Dp #Edchat

irasocol:  @VanessaSCassie http://is.gd/dMAhB  #edchat http://is.gd/dMAvu  and best http://is.gd/dMACt 

RevoltMarxism:  EDUCATION! http://ow.ly/2gW6Y  #classwar #p2 #topprog #edtech #gopcodered #speakingout #p2 #ownpersonalhell #p #edchat #sociology #Econ

irasocol:  http://www.life.com/archive/gallery #edchat

Reflective. Inquiring. Curious

Jessica Kelleher is currently a PYP (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme) teacher at the International School of Modena in Italy. She teaches Grade 3.
Jessica trained as a primary school teacher in Germany, where she worked at KLAX Primary and Middle School in a variety of roles, including Mathematics Middle School teacher, class teacher, and Middle School coordinator. 
She has since worked at Westminster International School in Pisa as a PYP class teacher and PYP     coordinator.
Jessica’s professional interests currently revolve around inquiry-based teaching and learning, educational technology and curriculum development. Her degree in Learning, Technology and Research has sparked a further interest in professional development and action inquiry, as well as eLearning and eEducation.


New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 1,000 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

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