THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN’ Part II

Part I, confidently posted in February, had a lot to say about our efforts to meet PYP expectations. First re computers and their usage. Well, it looks like this will play out almost as planned. The senior computer room’s days are numbered; and next month all of its computers will be dispersed to the classrooms, from prep to grade 5. Each classroom will receive 2 or more desktop computers, so that students can immediately search information if they have questions. For those times when every child needs a computer, the PG , TK and grades 1 and 2 will use the junior computer room, grades 3 and 4 will use the schools laptops, grade 5 will be urged to bring their own laptops and grade 6 and up must own laptops.

The changes in computing address two concerns of the PYP team. First, our students spend too much time outside their classrooms, in the hands of various specialists. Art and computing are two subjects that can easily be taught in the classroom by our classroom teachers. Some staff PD may be required before our ICT teachers can back off, and our classroom teachers can fully take over their teaching load. Ultimately, at the PYP level, the ICT teachers will teach classroom teachers only, not students, but this may take up to a year to get in place. Second, having several computers in each classroom allows students to immediately follow up on questions as they arise, so students don’t have to wait for computer time to search for answers to their questions, which facilitates the inquiry process and satisfies PYP expectations.

We will attempt to have the whole new system in place before the end of this school year to work out any bugs. Several inconveniences will be necessary if we are to keep to our schedule. For instance upgrading the computers in the junior computer room will mean closing this facility from 25 May until 5 June, and building a partition in the new library (current SD2B) will mean that this class will have to shift next door to the junior music room likely in the first week of June. And the PG and TK will have to forfeit the usage of the junior music room, just when they need it to practice for the end of year performance.

If the laptop program works out well, as assessed after one or two years, hopefully we can extend the laptop program to the lower SD, TK and PG. If this is feasible, we can free up the junior computer room for office space and meeting rooms, which are sorely needed.

The second point concerns the library, and the consolidation of junior and senior libraries into one facility on the second floor. This cannot take place until the holidays. Book purchasing, however, is proceeding, currently outstanding are orders for 12 books from Amazon, 15 volumes from Austral Ed, and one from IBO. Another order is ready for 31 PYP books from Austral Ed and another 12 from Amazon.

This update on change covers mostly change in physical facilities. We now need to articulate our expected outcomes vis a vis improvements in teaching / learning and put in place a suitable method for collecting evidence of their impact.

REFLECTING ON MY FIRST YEAR OF BLOGGING

I started blogging in the middle of May 2007. In this post I reflect on my experiences after one year of blogging.

First, I’ll deal with questions about why I started blogging and why I have continued. I started with some rather naive ideas about communicating with a captive audience of clients, students and staff. With over 400 kids in the school at the time, I expected a couple hundred parents would be keen to follow my every word. Was I ever mistaken! It didn’t take me long to realize that no-one, not even my staff, was reading my blog. Since by that time, my blog was directed primarily towards staff and parents, the observation that they were not reading it, was perplexing, to say the least. Was it due to their slow adoption of RSS, lack of interest, ignorance or fear of web 2.0?

To stimulate parents to read my blog, I essentially quit producing our regular newsletter and continually promoted the blog as a source of information. At this point in time, I really don’t know if this approach has been successful in influencing parents. My ability to influence staff is much stronger, and so their professional development (PD) priorities were realigned to focus on technology. (If I played it right, I could almost equate successful PD with reading my blog.)

In less than six months, focusing PD on technology has lead to a spectacular increase in staff use of web 2.0 technologies, which will eventually affect their classroom activities, and a noticeable, but less spectacular increase in blog readership. For instance, one year ago a search of Youtube or Classroom 2.0 for Sekolah Bogor Raya would yield no hits, whereas now it yields several hits, with the number growing actively. In the cases of both parents and staff, I firmly believe the poor or slow adoption of RSS is the main reason for continuing low readership.

So, despite the lack of readers, why do I continue to blog? Simply because I am passionate about learning, and I learn far more from blogging, including both reading and writing (with its forced reflection), than from any other form of professional development. Others have cited the same reason. A heartfelt thanks is in order to all who contribute to the blogosphere.

Another reason for blogging is to market my school, which has succeeded at least in terms of increasing traffic to our website. I had hoped to start conversations about Sekolah Bogor Raya, which could provide opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising, since word-of-mouth advertising is perhaps the most important form, especially for schools. I am somewhat amazed by the slow realization by most Indonesian National Plus Schools of the potent marketing opportunity offered by the internet. One exception is Sekolah Global Jaya, whose innovative executive principal, Richard Henry, has recently started podcasting. Congratulations, Richard.

This post has rambled a bit, but maybe that’s just the nature of reflection, following ideas wherever they take you.

BLOGGING IS 10!

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According to Wikipedia, today, December 17th, 2007 is the 10th birthday of the Weblog. In less than one month I hit 64, which may make me a record ‘aged blogger’. To celebrate the 10th birthday of blogging, Steve Hargadon, the creator of Classroom 2.0, has created a blog site (Celebrating Educational Blogging) to honor blogging and its impact on education and learning.

I have been blogging for less than one year. I started blogging because I was asking my staff to do so as part of a move into the 21st century. So far, only one has followed my lead, Pak Sigit, who authors the grade 5 classroom blog. Hopefully, together we are just the beginning of a movement of SBR teacher and student writers towards adopting Web 2.0 tools.

I have learned so much from blogging. The technical aspects of embedding videos, uploading photos, linking to websites are all easy now, but the first time took some trial and error. I still cringe whenever faced with code. The non-tech aspects, reading assimilating reflecting and finally putting finger to keyboard constitute the more important learning opportunities.
Flickr photo by Brenda Anderson

CONGRATULATIONS TO GRADE 5 ON THE BIRTH OF THEIR CLASS BLOG

Grade 5 is the first grade in Sekolah Bogor Raya to produce a class blog. It just appeared this week, and it looks great! With lots of students’ work. Check it out here. And if you forget the site name, you can always find it through the link in the school website.
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Hopefully, this is just the first classroom blog we’ll see this year. Is it too much to ask for one from every class? I don’t think so. And the next step after you have a classroom blog, is to get your students blogging.
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Finally, I will end with a note on the impact of blogging on the blogger. (You may recognize this from the latest newsletter, but it bears repeating.) Teachers who blog have said that the process of reading and reflecting enlarges one’s boundaries of what education can and should be. They have become better teachers, better communicators and more connected to the wider educational experience. They have even claimed that reading blogs and writing their own is the best professional development they’ve ever had.