> Mrs. O'Neill's Blog: March 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Slow, quick, quick, slow: wikis

Wikiwiki’ is Hawaiian for ‘quick’. ‘Quick’ is not a word I associate with computers.

Nevertheless, recently I started a wiki with my S2 class. They are supposed to be doing a unit on functional writing. A standard sort of task might be to write an information leaflet on a local attraction. Instead we are using the wiki to write about Internet Safety. So far, we are moving quite slowly. I have had moments when I have wondered whether this might not be a mistake. Poor sentence construction and bad spelling look even worse online.

Yesterday I had my Eureka moment. I was thinking, rather dolefully, about the amount of editing we do, for what seems like a little return. The pupils whilst enthusiastic in class, go off task quite quickly.

The wiki lets me know when someone is editing a page, and what they changed. Better still, the pupils themselves can see the editing that is going on.

A new editor- I'm adding them one at a time - had put up her page and I showed it to the class on the whiteboard. I then showed them the history of her editing. The page displays the old words highlighted in red, the new in green. The class looked at it carefully and ploughed their way through her edits. Finally I put up her edited page, which looked great.

A wave of spontaneous applause swept across the class.

Hard work doesn't always get rewarded like that.

Wiki whoo!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Am I boring you?

Vicki Davis blogged recently about a story that she had seen on another teacher's blog, concerning a Canadian pupil getting into trouble for writing an essay about being bored. According to a local newspaper the pupil was not allowed to deliver his essay in front of the class, because the school deemed it to be disrespectful to a teacher. Here's the original story as reported in a local paper.

I was interested in the story for a variety of reasons, not least, because like most teachers I think a lot about how to teach in an engaging way and get disheartened if I think I'm being boring.

Also, right now, in school, I have my S3 (14 year olds) writing a persuasive essay on the future of education and have asked them to look at what they think helps pupils get involved at school. A lot of them are looking at the link between boredom and bad behaviour :) Interesting reading.

I should also confess that I wrote an essay when I was in S3 complaining about boredom which ended up with me in the deputy headteacher’s office. And, no she wasn't delighted with my wit and perspicacity.

I like the comments that this blogging teacher made - ‘Teaching students how to deal with boredom is teaching them a life skill. They think they are bored now-just wait until they hit life outside of school.’ At the same time, as a teacher I am hoping not to provide too many pointers in this area...

In the Canadian story above however, the real issue for me as a teacher, is not about providing pupils with ways to combat boredom, it's about teaching pupils how to critique their world effectively and responsibly. This story after all was not about someone expressing an opinion alone, but about giving the speech in front of a class.

So, the school exercised its judgement and deemed the speech disrespectful to the teacher. They saw the speech, and made a judgement on it. Good for them. Who taught the pupil to write and frame a speech, and gave him the confidence to express his opinion in the first place? Presumably the school. Would they really be doing him a favour failing to teach him about when it is appropriate to use those skills?

Being bored is a complex issue. 'Boring' is code for a lot of things. I know that Pupil X says ‘This is boring!’ because she is finding something difficult to understand. Pupil Y says it because he is trying to get a reaction from me, or as a way of avoiding work. Pupil Z really does find my subject (and me) boring and -sometimes -I will be able to do something about it.

The touchstone I use is ‘Do I find this boring?’ because if I do I will certainly find it difficult to create enthusiasm. If I have to teach something uninspiring, I try to find ways to make it more interesting to myself first.

Why did I write my ‘this is boring’ essay in third year. I was bored. But not for long…

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Jock Bauer

Last night when we were eating dinner our power failed. The computer in the kitchen shut down, the CD player went quiet and the fridge shuddered, then stopped making that low, bubbling sound. Power cuts aren’t that unusual in this neck of the woods, so we lit some candles and finished the rest of our meal.

The weekend had started rather inauspiciously with a car crash. On the way home from school, a landrover sailed out of a side road, hit my car on the passenger side and sent me swerving off into a railed fence. I was fine. Not injured, but shaken. My car was not so good.

Then the ‘stuff’ started. If you’ve been through it recently you’ll know what I mean. ‘Phone calls, breakdown trucks, insurance details, complicated re-scheduling and so on…

So last night’s power cut was a pause in a frantic 24 hours. Not quite Jack Bauer, but a Wigtownshire version of it.

It was funny, but it seemed like the first real moment of silence in a long time. And even when we had some electricity restored, we still kept the candles lit and tiptoed about. Later we watched the lunar eclipse and managed one photograph, before our digital camera announced it was out of power.

But that was okay, because so were we.